NPR logo 30 Graves, Thought To Be Burmese Migrants, Found In Thailand

International

30 Graves, Thought To Be Burmese Migrants, Found In Thailand

Thai policemen measure shallow graves in Songkhla province in southern Thailand on Saturday. Authorities say the 30 or so gravesites appear to contain remains of illegal migrants from neighboring Myanmar. Sumeth Panpetch/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Sumeth Panpetch/AP

Thai policemen measure shallow graves in Songkhla province in southern Thailand on Saturday. Authorities say the 30 or so gravesites appear to contain remains of illegal migrants from neighboring Myanmar.

Sumeth Panpetch/AP

At least 30 gravesites have been uncovered in a mountainous area of southern Thailand — many containing remains thought to be migrants from neighboring Myanmar, says Michael Sullivan, reporting from Thailand for NPR.

Two unburied bodies and one survivor were also found nearby, he says, noting that Thailand is a regional human trafficking hub and that many illegal migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh are "kept in transit camps in the Thai jungle waiting to be smuggled across the border for a price. Others, advocates say, are held hostage while the traffickers demand payment from their relatives back home."

The Associated Press says that the lone survivor, who is now hospitalized for malnutrition, "told authorities [that] smugglers escaped days earlier with around 100 Rohingya Muslims, a long-persecuted religious minority in Myanmar."

The graves were discovered in Padang Besar, near the Malaysian border. According to the AP, the police chief in the region, Gen. Jarumporn Suramanee, said DNA samples would be taken from the bodies but that it would take time to determine the victims' identities and cause of death.

Suramanee said 32 gravesites were found scattered around Padang Besar, but that some of them were empty. He told the AP that he expected the death toll would not exceed 26.