Burma Times Correspondent: May 29, 2015
Many Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants are held as prisoners in the sea in cargo ships.
In face of an unprecedented crackdown by South East Asian countries, it is almost impossible for human traffickers to sneak their human cargo inside Thailand where the brutal jungle camps have operated for at least a decade. But even before the crackdown, traffickers have found ways to carry on business without using the traditional land route.
As the land route closes, this new tactic has proved a boon for traffickers. Instead of jungle camps, traffickers have established marine camps where hostages are tortured until their families agree to pay the ransom. When the ransom is paid, the migrants are smuggled to Malaysia in small boats thus avoiding the land route completely.
According to Malaysia authorities, two small boats have been spotted near Langkawi as they attempted to seek past their defences. The boats have escaped Malaysian warships and floated towards Thai waters on Thursday.
Most of these marine camps are located in the Andaman Sea, according to testimonies collected by survivors.
Under the new arrangement, migrants are transported in rickety vessels towards Thailand. But instead of going overland to be held in jungle camps, they are escorted to bigger cargo vessels that have an enormous capacity.
Here the situation resembles the ordeal of jungle camps – -prisoners are tortured while their relatives are made to hear their screams over phone. Women are raped. When prisoners die, instead of being buried in shallow graves, they are thrown into the sea.
One survivor says that he heard traffickers boasting that in this way there is no evidence.