NSC man ‘shocked’ illegal immigrants used ‘difficult’ route, RCI told

The RCI on mass graves in Wang Kelian was told that illegal immigrants would not use a difficult route to enter Perlis. (Bernama pic)

PUTRAJAYA: A Perlis National Security Council official told the Wang Kelian royal commission of inquiry into mass graves he was shocked to learn about the discovery of a jungle transit camp for illegal immigrants on top of Wang Burma hill on Jan 19, 2015.

The 25th witness at the RCI, Safrul Faiz Abd Satar, who was formerly the director of the NSC for Perlis, said this was because the route via the hill was considered “difficult” and, therefore, not the common route used by illegal immigrants entering Malaysia.

“I was shocked because this had never happened in Perlis or Kedah.

“Usually, they (illegal immigrants) would not use a difficult route to enter Perlis. They would concentrate on areas which were easily accessible to vehicles from the neighbouring country (Thailand),” Safrul, who was also simultaneously the director for Kedah NSC at the time, told the inquiry.

He said that the immigration and customs departments would often brief those attending the NSC state security committee meetings on the smuggling of illegal immigrants.

They included statistics on intrusions and arrests of illegal immigrants made in either Wang Kelian or the Immigration Custom, Quarantine and Safety (ICQS) centre in Padang Besar, Perlis, he said.

“There was a slight increase in the numbers (of illegal immigrants reported by the agency) around 2013 and 2014,” Safrul said, adding that the immigrants were from Myanmar. However, the increase in numbers was not significant.

He explained that the MSC in Perlis would usually hold a state security committee meeting twice a year, chaired by the menteri besar. Other issues discussed were the smuggling of contraband and drugs.

Safrul said the issue of illegal immigrants had become a fixed agenda for discussion at these ever since he started working at the council in 2010.

He said all relevant agencies attending the meetings were also aware of the issue. Apart from immigration, they included the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), PDRM’s General Operations Force (GOF), the Malaysian Anti-Drug Agency and the Anti-Smuggling Unit (UPP).

He also said the Perlis menteri besar would give instructions to the agencies as follow-up action at the meetings.

However, he said he did not receive information as to whether the directives given and operations planned by the agencies were really implemented.

Safrul revealed that about half of the 106 km border between Malaysia and Thailand in that area was not fenced, and that three areas had no GOF posts.

The unfenced areas were classified by NSC as hard to penetrate, far from residential areas and areas in permanent forest reserves.

He said he first learned about the discovery of the Wang Burma jungle camp when briefed by his officer, Lt-Col Zamri Hamzah, the 26th witness.

Zamri had attended a Jan 20, 2015, monthly meeting chaired by the then deputy Perlis police chief Muhd Zukir Muhd Isa, the 14th witness at the inquiry.

Safrul said he was told about the food supply at the camp, the grave-like structures found nearby and the instruction by Zukir to destroy the site to prevent other illegal immigrants settling in the same location.

Reporters were asked to leave the room when Safrul was about to answer the question as to whether the Perlis NSC had held any meeting with Thailand to specifically discuss the smuggling of illegal immigrants.

Previously, Zukir had said he had only instructed a partial demolition of certain areas of the Wang Burma jungle camps to make the area unliveable for other illegal immigrants.

Zamri told the inquiry that during the monthly meeting with Zukir, fifth witness ASP Joeking Marian Anthony had given a briefing on the jungle camps and the discovery of several grave-like structures.

This contradicted Joeking’s earlier testimony that he had never briefed the meeting about the grave structures.

Zamri also said he had spoken to Joeking on the sidelines of the meeting to ask for a report on the incident for his superior, Safrul.

He said he then received an incident report from Joeking on Feb 4, 2015, detailing the discovery of the camps and the arrests of illegal immigrants at the foot of Wang Burma hill.

However, he told the inquiry he did not remember if the report had detailed anything about graves.

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.

The RCI continues tomorrow.