Cops found graves while burning tents at human trafficking camp, RCI told

Joeking Marian Anthony.

PUTRAJAYA: An eyewitness told a royal commission of inquiry (RCI) today that he saw graves at a human trafficking camp on top of the Wang Burma hill in Perlis in January 2015.

ASP Joeking Marian Anthony said he saw the graves when he and a colleague led a team of about 30 policemen to destroy the campsite, following instructions by the deputy police chief of Perlis.

He said he met earlier with the deputy police chief to explain that he had ordered a raid on the camp by 10 policemen attached to the General Operations Force (GOF) on Jan 19, 2015.

The Perlis deputy police chief then instructed him to conduct an operation to destroy the camp.

Joeking told the RCI into the discovery of mass graves at Wang Kelian that this was commonly done to prevent other illegal immigrants from settling at the same site.

The following day, on Jan 21, he and a colleague led approximately 30 policemen attached to the GOF and the Northern Brigade Intelligence Unit to burn down the camp.

He said they started to burn the canvas tents set up at the site but stopped after about 40 minutes when they discovered what looked like graves.

“We didn’t want to destroy the site further so as to enable better investigations,” Joeking told the RCI.

He added that the officers had taken pictures on their mobile phones before destroying any part of the site. He was unsure if there had been any specific instruction to any officer to take pictures.

Pictures taken by his members were compiled and transferred to a computer. However, he added, he might not have received all the pictures as the Northern Brigade Intelligence Unit did not come under his jurisdiction.

On Jan 22, he made a police report on the discovery of the graves.

“I left the matter to the IPD Padang Besar to investigate,” he said, referring to the Padang Besar district police headquarters.

He added that between April and March 2015, his commanding officer had ordered those involved in the operation to delete all pictures of the site from their phones.

The only pictures left were on his office computer at the Battalion 3 headquarters.

Joeking was the fifth witness to be called by the RCI. In January 2015, he was the commander of B Company of Battalion 3 of the GOF.

‘No evidence’

Joeking denied receiving any evidence from Inspector Mohd Mossadique, who had led the raid on the camp alongside nine other policemen on Jan 19.

“If the items were given to me, I would have included them in the report. He was next to me while I was making the report,” he said.

Yesterday, Mossadique told the RCI he had informed his superior, Joeking, about the items retrieved from the site. The items were a book containing Siamese writings, a DVD, a few CDs, a mobile phone and three SIM cards.

Joeking claimed that at about 11.45am on Jan 19, 2015, he had received a call from Sergeant Yusoff Islam Hassan regarding the discovery of tents on top of the hill.

Subsequently, he ordered surveillance and a raid of the area led by Mossadique. He added that the order was to carry out a raid only if necessary.

“I ordered one team to conduct a surveillance and raid if necessary, one team to do cut-off operations at the foot of the hill, and one team to assist the other two,” he told the panel.

When confronted with testimonies by previous witnesses who said the order was only to carry out surveillance, he said: “I don’t know why they said that, I am not very sure. My order was to carry out surveillance and to take action if necessary.”

He said the team stationed at the foot of the Wang Burma hill was there to detain any suspected illegal immigrant who might try to run away.

“In total, we detained 38 people: six by the first surveillance team which went to the site, and 32 by the team at the foot of the hill.”

Joeking then took them to the Padang Besar police headquarters where he made a report.

He said he was informed by one of the 38 immigrants who spoke a bit of English and Bahasa Malaysia that they had been brought to Malaysia by agents with the promise of jobs.

He said they seemed tired and hungry, but that no one was injured. The 38 were then sent to the anti-trafficking unit depot.

Successful operation

Joeking said the operation was successful. Before his men went to the site, nobody knew the camp was the station for a human trafficking syndicate.

“After the raid, we knew for sure there was human trafficking on top of the Wang Burma hill, and we managed to save 38 lives that day.”

He added that the area was part of the Perlis National Park, and not an operational area where members of the GOF carried out patrols.

“If there had been an active post there, maybe we would have known sooner,” he said.

The RCI was set up by the home ministry to look into the discovery of mass graves and human trafficking camps at Wang Kelian in 2015.

Former chief justice Arifin Zakaria leads the inquiry panel. Other panel members 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 the secretary of the RCI.