Malaysian police rescued 11 Bangladeshi and four Myanmar nationals, suspected to have been held for weeks by human traffickers for ransom, in Penang state on Wednesday night.
Police raided two adjacent apartments on the 15th floor of a building at Macallum Street Ghaut in George Town area and rescued the victims, reported Malaysian English daily The Star yesterday, quoting Mohd Nashir, assistant commissioner of police in Penang.
The traffickers demanded a ransom of up to RM 10,000 (1Malaysian ringgit = Tk23.60) from each of the victims' family, said the cop.
However, the identities of the 11 could not be confirmed.
Contacted, Mantu Kumar Biswas, labour counsellor at Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, said they were not aware of the rescue incident.
Seeking anonymity, another official at the mission said there have been a good number of such human-trafficking victims who primarily identified themselves as Bangladeshis. But later most of them were found to be Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.
“Most of the victims were trafficked by a gang of Myanmarese and Bangladeshi human traffickers. They were brought to Malaysia through the Bay of Bengal at Cox's Bazar,” he told The Daily Star.
According to police, the victims looked weak and despondent when they were rescued after keeping watch over the place for several days following a tip off. The traffickers had chained them together like slaves in a room.
The building was guarded by three other Myanmar nationals in their 40s whom the police rounded up.
Law enforcers said the rescued foreigners were victims of a human trafficking syndicate comprising Malaysians and Myanmarese. Police were on the hunt for the mastermind.
One of the victims from Myanmar told police that he had entered the country nine days ago. His family had to pay RM 2,000 to the syndicate before he could be taken to work at a construction site.
Penang police last month also rescued 35 Bangladeshis, believed to have been victims of a Myanmar-based human trafficking syndicate, reported another Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times. Cops arrested seven Myanmar nationals, including two women, for their involvement in the incident.
A probe by the Penang CID found that the Bangladeshis had entered the country through the Malaysia-Thailand border in Padang Besar, Perlis.
The Myanmar nationals had smuggled the Bangladeshis into Malaysia and had been keeping the victims in a house before selling them to their clients.
Talking to The Daily Star, an official of Tenaganita, a Malaysian NGO working for women, refugees and migrants, said they had information about a good number of Bangladeshi victims being trafficked by trafficking gangs composed of Bangladeshis, Myanmarese and Malaysians.
Many of the victims were compelled into forced labour in Malaysia, she added.
Asked about the fate of the rescued Bangladeshis, labour counsellor Mantu Kumar Biswas said some of the victims are deported after primary investigation, while some others are sent to detention centres for further probe.
In Malaysia, human trafficking is a criminal offence which is punishable by different jail terms, he added.