How two cops accidentally discovered a trafficking camp in Wang Kelian, Perak.
- Police initially thought human trafficking camp a drug processing syndicate
- Two cops noticed fresh human tracks, watchtowers built on trees when patrolling the area
- Tracks led to stream with soap bubbles coming from woman washing clothes upstream
- Like a scene from a Rambo movie – makeshift camps, wooden bridges between trees, observation posts
- Woman raised alarm on receiving text message alert of police presence
- Traffickers escaped
- Six injured, weak foreigners in locked wooden structure detained
- Police inspector revealed kept items seized from camps for 9 days before handing over to superiors
- Admitted not making detailed records of items
Corporal Mat Ten and Sergeant Yusof Islam Hassan recounted how they had discovered human trafficking camps in the jungle near the Thai-Malaysian border on Jan 18, 2015, while on routine patrols.
Mat, 58, was the first witness to testify at the Wang Kelian Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) public hearing, which is being held at the Home Ministry’s Dewan Gemilang in Putrajaya.
Addressing the panel, the General Operations Force member recounted how he and his partner found old clothes and noticed fresh human tracks and several watchtowers built on trees when patrolling the area.
As they walked, Mat said the track led to a stream where he smelled soap and noticed soap bubbles coming from upstream.
“I went up further and saw a woman washing clothes in the stream, and a man lying in a hammock near the camps.”
Mat said it was lucky that the woman did not notice him downstream.
“We did not engage with them and returned to inform our superiors of what we saw,” he answered when questioned by Conducting Officer Saiful Hazmi Mohd Saad.
Mat described the location as an intricate network of makeshift camps, with wooden pathways, boxed in by four guard towers each manned by a person.
He said it was like a scene from a Rambo movie.
Mat said upon sighting the woman, he came down to the Wang Kelian police station and alerted his superiors who then ordered a team of 10 officers to return to the spot to survey the area.
“We were approaching the camp with the team when I heard what sounded like someone receiving a text message on their mobile phone and noticed the woman I spotted earlier checking her phone
“Almost immediately, the woman shouted ‘polis sampai’ (police are here), triggering chaos as everyone within the camps scrambled and fled the scene into the jungles,” he said.
“That is how we knew there were people in the houses. But they destroyed and broke everything (when trying to escape),” he added.
Mat said he did not know what was contained in the text message that alerted the woman, believed to be a lookout at the human trafficking camp.
He added that neither he nor any of the other nine police officers were in the woman’s line of sight. They had, in fact, taken cover, he said.
Mat was responding to a question from a member of the panel, who wanted to know if the said woman had alerted her accomplices and the other illegal immigrants there after reading a text message on her mobile phone and not because she saw the police.
“Yes, it was not because she saw me, but after she read the message,” he said, adding that this prompted those at the location to make a run for it.
Mat said his team failed to arrest those who ran away, but managed to detain six “pendatang” (foreigners) who could not flee due to injuries. The six were kept captive inside a wooden structure which was fenced and locked. They were found hungry and weak.
The corporal said he did not ask the nationalities of the six, who were taken to the Wang Kelian police station and processed.
The panel questioned the corporal multiple times about the 10-officer mission, with the latter maintaining that they had obtained instructions to only surveil the camps, not to raid or conduct arrests.
Sergeant Yusof concurred in his testimony that the mission had been a mere surveillance operation.
When the panel asked him why police surveillance could be so easily detected by their targets, Yusuf answered that he was unsure how it happened.
Meanwhile, police inspector Mohd Mossadique Azni today revealed that he kept items seized from the camps at his desk for nine days before handing them over to his superiors.
He also admitted not making detailed records of the items.
During the Jan 19, 2015 operation, Mossadique led a team of 10 officers into the jungles after receiving information about the presence of human trafficking camps.
However, the mission turned awry when people at the camps were apparently alerted to the presence of police, and fled before Mossadique’s team could arrive.
The inspector then instructed his officers to search the area, which resulted in their seizing several items, including a notebook scribbled in Thai, a Thai driver’s license, a Nokia mobile phone, three SIM cards, a CD player and several CDs.
“I kept the items at my desk but I did not have a locker or any cupboard which I could lock. So I just kept it at my desk but out of plain sight,” he told the panel.
When quizzed by the panel if he had informed his superior, one ASP Joeking, about the seized items, Mossadique went silent for several minutes before uttering “I think I did tell him.”
Some nine days later, on Jan 29, he handed the items to police inspector Mohd Azizie Mohd, but added that they did not fill up a borang serahan (submission form).
As Mossadique explained, he did so because Azizie’s quarters had a cupboard which could be locked.
The hearing continues tomorrow and on April 22.
The RCI panel is chaired by former chief justice Ariffin Zakaria who is assisted by former inspector-general of police Norian Mai, along with five commissioners.
The commissioners are former ambassador to Thailand Nazirah Hussin; former public accounts committee deputy chairperson Tan Seng Giaw; former chief prosecutor Noorbahri Baharuddin; former diplomat Razali Ismail and former head of research at the attorney-general’s department Junaidah Abdul Rahman.
In 2015, the country and the world were shocked over the discovery of mass graves and several transit camps in Wang Kelian linked to human trafficking activities, where a total of 147 graves with 130 human skeletons were found, leading eventually to the arrest of 44 foreigners.