Human trafficking Between 15,000 and 20,000 people have been trafficked to Malaysia and Thailand, in the last 15 years, and as many as 241 local and international traffickers and 26 Bangladeshi hundi traders are involved in luring fortune-seekers to Malaysia, through illegal channels. This was revealed in a 12-page report published by a committee formed by the police headquarters, for checking human trafficking, on December 17 last year. The report reveals that the sea route for trafficking people to Malaysia was first discovered in 2000 by Tajar Muluque, a fisherman, who came to Teknaf from Myanmar.Anywhere between 15,000-20,000 people have been trafficked to Malaysia and Thailand, since then.The report contains the names of 11 international human traffickers, 230 Bangladeshi traffickers, and 26 hundi traders, involved in human trafficking.The hundi traders hail from Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar districts. The trafficking syndicate includes six Bangladeshi nationals who are now living in Malaysia with their families. Besides, five traffickers hailing from Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar are also involved in the human trafficking racket. The report mentions a Malaysian woman, identified as Manaking, who controls the human trafficking syndicates from Thailand.The report says that some of the trafficked people have been languishing in the jails of Thailand and Malaysia, while some are compelled to work as slaves in the jungles of the two countries.The committee, in its report, also placed an eight-point charter of recommendations to check human trafficking. The recommendations include forming a high-level monitoring cell, with representatives from the home ministry, law, justice and parliamentary affairs ministries, and the attorney general; trying the traffickers in speedy tribunals; forming a special monitoring cell at district and metropolitan levels to ensure deposition of witnesses in human trafficking cases; setting up a full-fledged police investigation centre at Shah Parir Dwip in Teknaf, forming committees in the coastal areas; bringing to book the expatriate Bangladeshis involved in human trafficking; setting up a naval police unit in Teknaf and Ukhiya; and bringing the hundi traders to justice.According to the report, 242 cases were filed in connection with human trafficking, against 1,355 traffickers in Cox’s Bazar and 2,733 victims were rescued in the last five years. At the same time, 29 cases were lodged against 167 traffickers in 16 police stations of Chittagong Metropolitan Police and 858 victims were rescued from Chittagong city. At the same time, five cases were lodged against 67 traffickers, with different police stations in Chittagong, and 202 victims were rescued.The report says that there was a time when the traffickers used to charge unsuspecting victims huge sums of money to take them to Malaysia or Thailand, by sea. However, the scenario has changed as the traffickers now do not charge any money. Instead, they make the victims promise to pay up after reaching their destinations. But, once on board, the traffickers are known to torture and starve the hapless victims, often holding them hostage and demanding ransom from their families back home. Even the traffickers sometimes kill the victims and dump the body into the sea, after failing to realise ransom.Referring to the unholy nexus between the traffickers and the law enforcing agencies, the report divulged that members of Myanmar Navy and Bangladesh Coast Guard extend active assistance and cooperation to the traffickers, in exchange of money.The traffickers and middlemen carry out monetary transaction among them through hundi. The traffickers establish contact between a Malaysia-goer and his or her relatives in Bangladesh. Then the relatives of the Malaysia-goers, in Bangladesh, pay up the money in cash or through electronic money transfer to the agents of the traffickers in the country, the report disclosed.As per the report, the human trafficking syndicates operate at three levels. The first group works at the root level, concocting success stories to lure prospective victims; the second group assembles the victims and puts them on board the boats; and the third group living in Thailand and Malaysia receives the victims.The main traffickers give Tk. 10,000-Tk. 20,000 to their agents, for each human trafficking victim, while an agent usually charges Tk. 20,000-Tk. 30,000, per person, for arranging a passage on a boat.The report also disclosed that the empty cargo boats which anchor at Teknaf, to unload goods, return to Myanmar carrying the Malaysia-goers. It is alleged that some vessels, after unloading goods at Chittagong Port, return to Thailand, carrying the Malaysia-goers.It may be mentioned, the US state department, in its Trafficking in Persons report released on June 20 last year, blacklisted Thailand and Malaysia for failing to meet minimum standards in fighting human trafficking.According to Coast Guard sources, trafficking of people through the sea route, linking Bangladesh to Thailand and Malaysia, along the Mynamar coast, has increased recently, due to favourable weather and sea conditions.On October 11, about 130 Bangladeshis, reportedly abducted and taken to Thailand to be sold as ‘slaves’, were rescued from a jungle by the Thai authorities. The victims were later taken to a shelter in Wang Thong district, where they told horrific tales of brutal torture by their abductors.On June 11, at least six people were killed and 40 injured, as a Malaysia-bound trawler, carrying 321 Bangladeshis, in a shootout near St Martin’s. The traffickers and their accomplices had fired on the fortune seekers when they protested against the delay in sailing the vessel to Malaysia. The Coast Guard rescued 315 people, 27 of whom had bullet wounds. Five bodies were found on the trawler, while another went missing.In the biggest ever rescue of victims of human trafficking, Bangladesh Navy, on November 17, rescued nearly 600 people, who were heading for Malaysia illegally, from a large trawler in the Bay of Bengal. Most of the rescued victims were Bangladeshi nationals.