Police chief says situation in Sarawak not very serious, only 89 cases recorded last year
KUCHING: Human trafficking in Sarawak is not alarming and is still at a manageable level, State Police Commissioner Datuk Seri Muhammad Sabtu Osman said yesterday.
He revealed that the state recorded only 89 cases of human trafficking last year, with most of the victims involved in vice activities.
In addition, 25 alleged traffickers or ‘guardians’ were arrested, and four of them had been prosecuted.
He further said no further action was taken on the remaining 21 suspects who had been released due to lack of evidence while several of them were still under police surveillance.
“We managed to free 89 men and women from captivity last year with most of the women involved in prostitution. Of the 25 guardians (suspected traffickers) that we arrested, four have been prosecuted in court.
“We have labelled 21 others as NFA (no further action), meaning that the police have found no element of human trafficking in regards to their arrest. Some of the foreigners under the care of these individuals came to the state on a voluntary basis but were unwilling to work with their employers anymore when we found them,” he told reporters after closing a workshop on ‘Reporting on Trafficking In Persons’ at Pullman Hotel here.
The three-day workshop, organised by Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States of America and Home Affairs Ministry’s Anti Human Trafficking Council (Mapo), was attended by 42 journalists representing media organisations in the country and Indonesia.
MPI administration council member T Selva was present to witness the presentation of certificates to the participants.
Sabtu explained that in most cases, the police had acted on public tip-off and reports but further investigations were needed to confirm whether the foreigners were victims of human trafficking.
Of the 89 cases, he said the majority came from Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. This year the police have recorded three cases.
Touching on the presence of Suluks in Miri Division, he said intelligence gathered by the Special Branch over the years had been channelled to the National Security Council and police would continue to monitor their movement while awaiting the nod from Immigration Department to take action.
“Intelligence gathered by the Special Branch reveals that 600 to 700 Suluks live at a village in Miri. The information has been forwarded to the Malaysian National Security Council for further action. Reconnaissance has been done for the past two to three years and we have begun to take action this year.”
The main concern, he noted, was to prevent an influx of illegal immigrants. He assured that police would take immediate action if the foreigners were involved in unlawful activities or threatened the prevailing peace.
He said based on the information gathered, activities by the Suluk community here were not threatening as most had come here to work.
When asked on the monitoring of trails used for illegal border crossing, he said police together with the armed forces, Immigration Department and General Operations Force (GOF) would continue to conduct roadblocks especially in areas near the border.
“The state borders are not entirely fenced and most of the boundaries are marked by palm oil plantations. Furthermore, illegal immigrants can arrive by land or sea. The authorities are closely monitoring the situation and patrols are regularly conducted whether it is by foot, vehicle or boat,” Sabtu said, and advised the public not to be duly worried over the situation.