PUTRAJAYA: A Customs official who worked at the Malaysia-Thailand border told the Wang Kelian royal commission of inquiry (RCI) today that he received only “vague” information about the possibility of illegal immigrant settlement camps in 2015.
Mohd Pudzi Man, the former state director of the Customs Department in Perlis, also said the intelligence wing of the anti-smuggling unit (UPP) had no information on the presence of any camps.
The Customs Department had worked in tandem with the UPP at the border. It was involved in anti-smuggling activities for contraband such as drugs and fireworks as well as activities to combat the smuggling of illegal immigrants.
“I urged the officials (to collect information),” Pudzi said. “There was only vague information about Wang Kelian (regarding the camps).
“We found that in Wang Kelian, there were vehicles picking them (the illegal immigrants) up, but it was very vague.
“Even if we had conducted a raid, we would not have had a justified case,” he told the inquiry.
Pudzi, who worked in Perlis from September 2011 to June 2016, was the 29th witness in the RCI into the mass graves and human trafficking camps found at Wang Kelian in 2015.
He also said he found it difficult to gather intelligence on the smuggling of illegal immigrants leading up to the discovery of the Wang Burma jungle camp on Jan 19, 2015.
“We received very little information and it was very vague,” he said, adding that it was easier to obtain intelligence on the smuggling of contraband such as drugs or fireworks.
Pudzi said he only learnt about the mass arrests of illegal immigrants and the camp in Wang Kelian when it was reported in the media.
“It was shocking. We did not expect the situation to be this big because before that, there were only small cases (of the arrest of illegal immigrants),” he said.
He added that he was unaware of the influx of Bangladeshi and Rohingya illegals entering Malaysia from the north despite the checkpoints set up by UPP.
He said the Customs Department usually received about four or five cases of illegal immigrants each month.
“Even the ones we got in Perlis were mostly from Myanmar,” he added. “So Bangladeshis were out of my knowledge.”
He also said that the hot spots for illegal immigrants were Lubuk Sireh and Padang Besar in Wang Kelian, and the villages around Kuala Perlis.
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.