Tue, Jul 28, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian official accused of selling man to traffickers

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

A Malaysian immigration official was charged with selling an illegal immigrant from Myanmar to human traffickers at the country’s border with Thailand, his lawyer said yesterday.

Rahman Selamat, a senior immigration official from southern Johor state, pleaded innocent to human trafficking charges, his lawyer Wan Mohamad Fadzil Maamor said.

If found guilty, Rahman faces up to 15 years in prison. The court in northern Kelantan state refused bail for Rahman pending trial on Aug. 25, Wan Mohamad Fadzil said. Further details were not immediately available.

Rahman was arrested on July 17 with four other immigration officials and four bus drivers, who allegedly helped transport the migrants to the border.

Police said investigations showed the immigration officers sold an unspecified number of Myanmar migrants detained for living in Malaysia without valid travel documents to human traffickers at the Thai border for up to 600 ringgit (US$170) each.

The traffickers then allegedly took the migrants into Thailand and told them to pay 2,000 ringgit (US$570) each for their freedom, or they would be forced to work in the fishing industry, police said.

It was unclear if the other Malaysian officials or bus drivers accused of involvement would also be charged.

The officials did not specify the ethnicity of the migrants, but most Myanmar people who try to enter Malaysia are ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

In April, a report by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said illegal Myanmar migrants deported from Malaysia were forced to work in brothels, restaurants and on fishing boats in Thailand if they had no money to buy their freedom.

The UN refugee agency has registered more than 48,000 refugees in Malaysia, most from Myanmar. But community leaders estimate the number of Myanmar people in Malaysia is about twice that.

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