By Annabelle Lee

Human rights groups have cast doubts over Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement yesterday on the release of 12 policemen, and the conviction of four foreigners, in the Wang Kelian mass graves case.

(To read this article in Malaysiakini here.)

Tenaganita director Aegile Fernandez, in dubbing the release of the cops as “unbelievable”, questioned how was it possible for the authorities to successfully charge the foreigners nabbed in connection with the case, but “conveniently” let go of the policemen, due to insufficient evidence.

She referred to a 2015 report by the Malaysian police’s Special Branch that alleged 80 percent of all border authorities, including police and immigration officers, are corrupt.

“In all write-ups and news reports, it is very clear (that they are involved), the court has chosen to ignore the evidence. The Malaysian police has been very competent in the Kim Jong-nam case but the opposite is true in this mass graves case,” Fernandez told Malaysiakini.

Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson expressed his concerns over the different treatment of the case in Thailand and Malaysia.

“The Rohingya trafficking operations were equally active on both sides of the Thai-Malaysia border, but look at the difference in response, where in Thailand there are hundreds of persons on trial, while in Malaysia just four non-nationals have been prosecuted.

“It is a telling indication of Malaysia’s total failure to investigate and punish the official malfeasance, corruption and impunity to abuse rights that were involved in these horrific crimes against the Rohingya… The US State Department should downgrade Malaysia to Tier 3 in its forthcoming report on human trafficking,” he said in an email to Malaysiakini.

“Apparently, Prime Minister Najib (Abdul Razak) only cares about the Rohingya when (they were abused by the Myanmar military) in Rakhine state but he and his government are prepared to look the other way when it comes to trafficking Rohingya into Malaysia and finding 139 graves in Perlis,” added Robertson.

Sevan Doraisamy, executive director of Suaram, demanded an independent commission be established to investigate the mass graves.

“We demand independent commission to investigate the inefficiency of the way it (the case) was handled. It is shameful after a year of investigation (that the 12 Malaysian police were released).

“There needs to be transparency and accountability. Why weren’t they tried in court? (There are) lots of unanswered questions and this response does not do justice in any way to the victims,” said Sevan via Whatsapp.

Amnesty International Malaysia’s Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu thinks the investigation must continue.

“Even though the top officers have been released, that doesn’t mean the investigation should stop. There are a couple of hundred deaths that have not been accounted for and the police should continue to pursue this and find the people responsible,” she said in a phone call.

In May 2015, more than two dozen mass graves of Rohingya migrants, believed to be victims of human trafficking, were discovered along the Thai-Malaysian border in Wang Kelian, Perlis.

So far, three foreigners – two Myanmarese and a Bangladeshi, have been sentenced to three years each and 10 years behind bars, respectively, while a trial is ongoing for a fourth suspect – a Thai national.

The 12 policemen initially arrested in connection to the case have since been released, due to lack of sufficient evidence to tie them to the case, Zahid said yesterday.

This was in contrast to the scenario across the border in Thailand, where police issued 153 arrest warrants against individuals believed involved, including high-ranking government officials.

More than 80 people have appeared in court there over the case. However, it was reported that the top Thai police officer investigating the case has fled to Australia to seek asylum, fearing for his life due to the involvement of high-profile officers in the case.