Crime & Courts

Kedah Immigration busts Myanmar human trafficking ring

ALOR STAR: The Kedah Immigration Department cracked down on a human trafficking syndicate operated by a Myanmar national who possessed a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' (UNHCR) card in Sungai Petani, yesterday.

In a 10.30pm raid at Taman Ria Jaya, immigration officers detained a 53-year-old man believed to be the syndicate's mastermind.

State immigration director Mohd Ridzzuan Mohd Zain said that five women and one two-year-old girl — all Myanmar nationals — were detained at the premises as they lacked valid permits to reside in the country.

"The suspect is believed to be providing illegal foreign worker transit services to employers. Of the five women detained, one of them is his 55-year-old wife. The child is also believed to be his.

"Following this, a second raid was carried out at premises in Taman Batik," Ridzzuan said during a press conference at the state Immigration Office here, today.

He added that the second raid led to the detention of 26 undocumented Myanmar nationals, comprising 16 males and 10 females.

He said some of them entered the country illegally, while others overstayed their social visit passes.

"They were found sleeping on cardboard in a vacant building that was locked from the outside.

"Further investigations found that they were brought into the country through various border points, gathered in Sungai Petani and then distributed to employers."

Ridzzuan said the syndicate leader, who had lived in Malaysia for 35 years, is being investigated for involvement in human trafficking networks.

He said action would also be taken against the owners of the raided premises.

"All individuals detained are being remanded at the Belantik Immigration Depot for further investigation."

When interrogated, the syndicate leader confirmed that all the trafficked Myanmar nationals were awaiting employment requests from employers based in Johor.

"Only 20 have been picked up so far, with the rest scheduled for collection soon, before we were detained last night.

"Food was provided at a cost of RM14 per individual, covered by their employers. However, I have only received payment for the first month so far," he added.

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