US envoy to visit Malaysia over inaction on mass graves

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — The American envoy on human trafficking is scheduled to visit Malaysia next week following criticism in the US about the lack of prosecutions against government officials over mass graves of suspected trafficking victims.

International newswire AP reported yesterday US State Department spokesman Mai Shiozaki as saying that Susan Coppedge, ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons, would meet Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during a two-day visit to Kuala Lumpur starting Monday.

Shiozaki also reportedly said that Coppedge would meet senior officials from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Prime Minister’s Office, besides hosting a roundtable with non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Malaysia was upgraded from the bottom tier, Tier 3, to its current Tier 2 “watch list” standing in the US annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report last year shortly after the May 2015 discovery of 139 graves and 28 human trafficking camps at Wang Kelian, Perlis, along the Thai border.

Lawmakers in both countries expressed suspicion at the time that Malaysia’s upgrade was to facilitate its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership; the Tier 3 status would have prevented the US from entering a trade deal with Malaysia.

Malaysia remained in the “watch list” ranking in the TIP report released three weeks ago that, according to AP, found that several Malaysian officials were questioned over the mass graves issue, but none were prosecuted for complicity in human trafficking.

The AP reported that several US lawmakers had pressed Coppedge about the matter at congressional hearings on July 12 and she reportedly agreed it was “troubling” that no government officials have been prosecuted. – MMO.