RCI into mass graves hears of people kept locked in jungle camp

Corporal Mat Ten, the first witness in the public hearing of the Wang Kelian RCI.

PUTRAJAYA: The first public hearing of the royal commission of inquiry (RCI) into the Wang Kelian mass graves and human trafficking camps began today with two witnesses saying they had run into a camp with caged areas, tents and tall wooden observation posts in the jungle in 2015.

Corporal Mat Ten said he was on his rounds as a member of the general operations force at a hilly area near Wang Kelian on the night of Jan 18, 2015, when he saw a trail leading into the jungle, with clothes left behind and human tracks.

He said the only people who normally went to that area were those who maintained a telephone pole nearby.

The following morning, he and his colleague Sergeant Yusof Islam Hassan discovered a stream on top of a hill after following the trail.

There, Mat said he smelled soap and saw white foam coming from the stream. He spotted a woman washing clothes some distance away. “She had her back to me, she didn’t see me,” he told the seven-member panel.

This led him to discover a clearing which appeared to be a campsite, with tents and tall wooden observation posts. He said he also saw a man lazing on a hammock while playing with a mobile phone.

Sergeant Yusof Islam Hassan.

He and Yusof went back down the hill to report the matter to their superiors.

On the afternoon of Jan 19, 2015, he and Yusof were among 10 police officers under the command of one Inspector Musadik who went to monitor the area.

They found a settlement with tents, tall wooden observation posts and 10-feet tall containment areas with padlocks and chains.

He said he saw the same woman who had been washing clothes a day earlier, along with several other men on the observation posts.

Assuming the men on the observation posts were guards, he said: “There was a guard sitting on top of the observation tower. He was holding a mobile phone.”

He said they looked like Thais and were charging their mobile phones, which were connected to an electric generator.

In his original police statement read during the inquiry, Mat said the woman appeared to have received a message on her phone and subsequently alerted the rest that police were coming to the campsite.

Mat said the woman and the men then scattered and escaped into the jungle, breaking some of the structures as they ran away. However, the team managed to detain six people suspected to be illegal immigrants who were kept locked in the area.

Mat said one of the six, who could speak Bahasa Malaysia, told him he was in the camp because a syndicate had brought him into the country by “following the wrong way”.

However, he was unsure of the nationality of the syndicate members.

Yusof, meanwhile, told the inquiry panel that the six had been kept in the locked containment area surrounded with barbed wire.

He added that they seemed weak, hungry and thin, with some bearing injury marks. He also said the area was dirty.

Both Mat and Yusof told the inquiry panel they had only received orders to monitor the area, not to ambush those present.

All six illegal immigrants were then escorted down the hill to the Wang Kelian police station.

The RCI was set up by the home ministry to look into the discovery of mass graves and human trafficking camps three years ago.

Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria leads the inquiry panel. Others are former inspector-general of police Norian Mai, Noorbahri Baharuddin, Razali Ismail, Junaidah Abd Rahman, Nazirah Hussain and Tan Seng Giaw. Yusran Shah Yusof is serving as RCI secretary.