The New Straits Times’ expose on the Wang Kelian tragedy has ignited demands for answers. Five days after our first report came out, federal police have responded to the 17 burning questions raised by our Probes team. The Bukit Aman answers are verbatim.
Question: Why was the discovery of the camps in Bukit Wang Burma on Jan 19 and Bukit Genting Perah on March 13 kept secret?
Answer: Nothing had been kept secret. There were four (4) reports made about the raids at the said locations but they were not revealed due to security and operational reasons at that particular time. Investigations were carried out based on those reports.
Q: Where is ASP J.K. now? He was the one who led the Jan 19 raid and briefed his superiors about it the next day.
A: While we are not sure who ASP J.K is referred to in this question, but there was an ASP Joeking attached to Battalion 3, General Operations Force, Bidor in 2015 until to date. ASP Joeking had conducted a raid at the location on 19 January 2015 and lodged a police report thereof on the same day.
Q: Why did Perlis police issue the order to destroy the camp a day after the General Operations Force (GOF) reported the discovery? Who issued the order? Wouldn’t this be construed as tampering with evidence/crime scene?
A: The camp was destroyed out of the order of the Deputy Chief of Perlis Police (Deputy CPO) as a preventive measure to avoid other migrants from entering or re-entering the area and to use it as their base. It was not necessary for us to preserve the area / not to destroy the camp because the assessment of the case then was of immigration offences. The main intent of the destruction of the camp was not for it to be used as a base for the migrants.
Q: How did the Perlis top cop, who was then close to retirement, or his deputy react when the discovery of the massive human trafficking camp and mass graves was brought to their attention?
A: The then Deputy CPO of Perlis was briefed about the discovery of the camp the next day when the migrants had already been handed over to the Immigration Department. It was out of this briefing that he subsequently ordered for the camp to be destroyed to avoid the camp from being used again by the migrants.
Q: Why was the camp not immediately cordoned off and the remains exhumed?
A: As a matter of fact, the whole area was declared as an operational zone after the discovery. The suspected graves were marked and would only be exhumed after all the operations in that area ceased. Only after the area was properly secured, would the investigation and forensics teams be allowed to enter. As a matter of fact, the area was not covered by the GOF before this because of the sensitivity of being very close to the border. In light of this, extra precautions had to be taken due to the steep terrain and the possibility of it being infested with explosive devices such as landmines / booby-traps. Therefore, the team took time to thoroughly comb-off the area and that was the reason why the bodies were not exhumed.
Q: What happened to the 38 migrants taken into custody by the assault team? Aren’t they prime witnesses?
A: All the 38 migrants were initially brought to Padang Besar Police Station for documentation. They were then taken by police trucks to the Immigration Depot in Sik and they became the responsibility of the Immigration Department.
Q: Why were they investigated for immigration offences? Were they not prime witnesses?
A: With reference to the general practice of the GOF, any encroachment at the border areas without valid travel documents would constitute an immigration offence or infringement.
As such, the raiding party (GOF) exercised the same procedure of handling such encroachment.
Therefore, in this particular case, they were investigated for such an offence and were not treated as witnesses because they themselves were the subject of the immigration infringement. Pursuant to that, however, investigations were carried out under Section 26A of ATIPSOM (Act 670 of 2007) the result of which four (4) people were charged and convicted while we are on the look-out for 10 more suspects, believed to be of Thai nationals and one (1) Bangladeshi.
An extradition request has been made through the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Q: What was the tactical approach taken by the elite police force on the Jan 19 raid, which had allowed all the syndicate members and most of the migrants held in several camps, to evade arrest?
A: That was our tradecraft and we have no obligation to reveal it. Notwithstanding, our GOF manned and controlled the area ever since Jan 19 until all the remains were exhumed. Therefore, there had been no access to the area from then on. As far as the raiding party is concerned, there had been no syndicate members spotted at the time and all the migrants had not evaded arrest. There were some who managed to escape to the Thai side of the border whom might be the handlers of these migrants but the fact that the location of the camp was very near to the border of Malaysia-Thailand which had no clear demarcation, had made it difficult for the raiding team to pursue and investigate further if there were any other parties beyond the area.
Q: Following the discovery of the camp in Bukit Wang Burma, why did the GOF not sweep the whole area to see if there were other camps?
A: We did. It is a forest reserve. Therefore we had to do it cautiously as it was near to the international boundaries as there could be booby traps which could endanger our personnel.
Q: Why are there different accounts of what had happened in the Jan 19 raid in Wang Burma?
A: The so-called different accounts stemmed from the tactical approach employed by GOF in accordance with their practice. To understand the tactical approach, one should first understand the topography of the area. In this regard, the area bordering Thailand is on the higher ground and the one within Malaysia is on the lower ground. Due to this fact, the GOF deployed eight (8) personnel to comb the higher ground whereas the rest of the team deployed on the lower ground.
Q: Some locals who were part of the syndicate had been identified. Have they been picked up?
A: Yes, they have been identified. Further investigations revealed that all the identities could not be further established due to the use of nicknames.
Q: Have the police officers suspected of being in cahoots with the syndicates been dealt with under the law or are they being ‘disciplined’ internally?
A: There is no evidence to show there had been any police officers who were in cahoots with the syndicates in this particular case.
Q: There were at least two Thai-Malaysia border committee meetings after the Jan 19 raid. Were the discoveries not discussed?
A: There were meetings to this effect but we cannot reveal it.
Q: Is there no truth in our expose? Or was Bukit Aman kept in the dark over the discovery of the camp when it said on May 25 that police did not find the camps before May.
A: The NST expose has brought to light certain matters in the issue which were not revealed at the time due to security reasons. However, after the discovery of another camp in May 2015, both Thailand and Malaysia police decided to conduct a full scale investigation of probable human trafficking activities.
Therefore, Bukit Aman was never kept in the dark over the discovery.
Q: Why were 300 VAT69 commandos sent on a mission on May 11 to locate and verify the existence of these camps under Op Wawasan Khas, when there is already photographic evidence of the Jan 19 raid?
A: The teams were sent down to conduct an extensive comb-off the terrain in Genting Perah in collaboration with the Thai counterparts who also combed the areas within their border. Besides, they were also tasked to identify and mark the mass graves at the location, in addition to the fact that it was a standard approach by the team to ensure the areas were cleared of any booby traps/security threats before they were handed over to the investigation team.
These commandos were deployed because of their expertise in such a location and situation that no ordinary police personnel could operate.
Q: Did Perlis police know that after their Jan 19 raid, the camps were still operating? In the May 25 press conference, the authorities confirmed that the sites were only vacated three weeks before.
A: The camp was operating until the Jan 19 raid. After which, they were no longer populated. The information that the camps were vacated three weeks prior to May 25 was false because the sites were constantly under the control of GOF.
Q: And the final question — will those behind this heinous crime against humanity be made to pay, and will the men, women and children who died trying to get a second chance at life, ever get the justice owed to them?
A: Of course. No matter who they are, they will be brought to justice.