Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (left) with Kedah Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir during the dialogue session. NSTP/AMRAN HAMID

ARAU: The government has set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to investigate the case of the human trafficking death camps which were uncovered in Wang Kelian, Perlis three years ago.

Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the establisment of the RCI was to allow the authorities to thoroughly investigate the tragedy which had shocked the nation.

“Previously, there were reports lodged and investigations carried out by police. But to avoid any misunderstanding and bad perceptions within the community, we have set up an RCI.

“A discussion to propose the names for the commission members has been held, and we are awaiting consent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“We have determined a time frame for the report to be completed before it would need consent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,” he told reporters after attending a dialogue session by the Perlis Malay Congress in Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) in Pauh Putra here today.

Muhyiddin said the report would be completed within a six-month period before it is presented to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

“We are only waiting for consent from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to approve the names of the people who will be members of the commission,” he said.

The mass killings grabbed headlines in May 2015 when police discovered 139 graves, 106 bodies, believed to be Rohingyas, and 29 illegal immigrant detention camps deep in the jungles of Bukit Genting Perah and Bukit Wang Burma, a few hundred metres from the Malaysia-Thai border in Wang Kelian.

The severity of the case was uncovered following an extensive two-year investigation by the New Straits Times Special Probes Team, which revealed startling evidence of a massive, coordinated cover-up of the killings.

Among other things, the NST probe revealed that the human trafficking death camps had been discovered months earlier, but police only announced the discovery on May 25, 2015.

The NST’s exclusive report titled "Was there a cover up in Wang Kelian?" published on Dec 20, 2017 won the Best Investigative Report award at the Malaysian Press Institute-Petronas Malaysian Journalism Awards for that year.

The tragedy impacted many aspects of life in the border town, most notably being the suspension of a free-flow zone which previously allowed shoppers to move around with documentation whenever they went to a market area that spanned from Wang Prachan, Thailand to Wang Kelian, Perlis.

On another matter, Muhyiddin said the government was studying the suitability of increasing the number of security personnel in the Bukit Kayu Hitam Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security complex following a decision by the Malaysian and Thai governments to extend its operation to 24 hours starting in April.

“We will study on the need to do..if it is needed, we will determine how many more personnel would we need.

“However, the important issue is security. We need to look at the current and previous situations that occured in checkpoints such as in Padang Besar and Wang Kelian. We need to make sure that security is maintained between the two countries,” he said.

The New Straits Times, after an exhaustive, two-year investigation into the mass killings in Wang Kelian, revealed startling new evidence, which suggested a massive, coordinated cover-up.