139 graves found in Malaysia

Authorities retrieve bodies from a mass grave in Thailand's Songkhla province.

Malaysia has uncovered 139 graves thought to contain the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, the country’s police chief said on Monday (May 25).

The graves were scattered around more than two dozen suspected human trafficking camps near the border with Thailand.

The grisly find follows the discovery of similar shallow graves on the Thai side of the border earlier this month, which helped trigger a regional crisis.

After a crackdown on the camps by Thai authorities, traffickers abandoned thousands of migrants in rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.

The jungles of southern Thailand and northern Malaysia have been a major route for smugglers bringing people to South-east Asia by boat from Bangladesh and Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution.

“It’s a very sad scene... To us, even one is serious and we have found 139,” Malaysia’s Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters at a news conference in the northern state of Perlis.

“We are working closely with our counterparts in Thailand. We will find the people who did this.”

The graves, some of which contained more than one body, were found at 28 abandoned camps located within about 500m of the Thai border in an operation that began on May 11, Mr Khalid said.

The border area is rugged and desolate and there are few roads.

“The first team of our officers has arrived in the area this morning to exhume the bodies,” Mr Khalid added.

He said one of the grave sites was just 100m or so from the site where 26 bodies were exhumed from a grave in Thailand’s Songkhla province (below) in early May.

PHOTO: REUTERS

SMUGGLING CRACKDOWN

Thailand, under pressure from the United States to do more to combat people smuggling, launched a crackdown after finding that mass grave, resulting in more than 3,000 migrants taking to boats which have ended up in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimated last Friday (May 22) that some 3,500 refugees were still stranded on overloaded boats with dwindling supplies, and repeated its appeal for the region’s governments to rescue them.

On Sunday (May 24), Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency said that starting next week, it would begin the repatriation of 720 Bangladeshi migrants over the next month.

The cost of the repatriation would be met by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration, said Mr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster agency.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday pledged assistance and ordered the navy to rescue people adrift at sea.

Indonesia’s navy spokesman Manahan Simorangkir said it had deployed six ships and an aircraft last Wednesday (May 20) to search for refugee boats. “They came back on Saturday and did not find any Rohingyas,” he said. “The ships and aircraft are back out again.”

The scale of the discoveries along the Thai-Malaysia border will raise questions about any official complicity in the camps.

Past reporting by Reuters had found refugees were typically held by traffickers until a ransom was paid.

Malaysian police said in a statement that two police officers were among 10 people arrested so far this year in investigations into human trafficking, without giving details.

Thailand said earlier this month that more than 50 police officers had been transferred as a result of investigations into human trafficking networks in the south.

Mr Najib said in a post on his official Facebook account that he was “deeply, deeply concerned with graves found on Malaysian soil purportedly connected to people smuggling".

“We will find those responsible,” Mr Najib posted in English.

Sources: Reuters, Star Online

 

 

 

Genetically-modified mosquitoes released in China

You know it as dengue.

Victims of this illness - otherwise known as break-bone disease - will tell you that the pain they suffer is extremely severe.

No vaccine or treatment is available for dengue haemorrhagic fever and it has killed about 22,000 deaths a year worldwide, affecting mostly children.

To combat widespread dengue fever in Guangzhou, scientists have infected mosquitoes with bacteria and released half a million of these harmless insects to "take out" other deadly mosquitoes.

Whether this trial becomes a scientific breakthrough remains to be seen.

So far, according to IFLScience, this has been tested out in the Cayman Islands, Brazil and Malaysia.

It has been reported that four months of release of the genetically-modified mosquitoes caused a 85 per cent reduction in the mosquito population.

So how does it work?

The Guardian and The Hindu reported that the released mosquitoes have been infected with wolbachia bacteria which causes the males to be sterile.

Sterile mosquitoes lose the ability to carry dengue.

When they mate with other females, they won't produce offspring and the result of this is that the population of the deadly mosquito will be reduced eventually.

Interestingly, these infected creatures do not bite.

The Chinese government has not yet approved of  the release of sterile mosquitoes but they were open to this trial because Wolbachia bacteria also naturally occurs in many insects.

As part of a two-prong attack on the deadly mosquitoes, the females which have been infected with the Wolbachia bacteria also have their own job to do.

A few of these females will be released to replace those that can transmit dengue so that the majority of the mosquito population are not dengue carriers.

The World Health Organisation's  Dr Raman Velayudhan said: "In terms of the number of people who fall sick, dengue and malaria are very similar. Dengue affects 128 countries; malaria 97. The neglect I think comes because dengue doesn’t kill as many people."

Currently, a team of researchers are driving around Guangzhou and releasing mosquitoes from plastic pots on their trucks.

Some of the residents of the small island in the south of China are finding the scientists a welcome sight.

Said Michigan State University's Xi Zhiyong, who heads the project: "Some residents have even asked to get mosquitoes from us to release in their own home."

China's worst outbreak of dengue fever in two decades happened last year with Guangdong province reporting almost 47,000 cases.

Before 1970, only nine countries had severe dengue outbreaks.  Now it is endemic in more than 100 countries.

Two-fifths of the global population – across Africa, Asia and Latin America – could be at risk of dengue fever.

In the past few years, cases of dengue have also been reported in the US and Europe.

Source: The Guardian, The Hindu, IFLScience

 

Maid jailed 12 years for killing employer's 16-year-old daughter in Tampines home

The maid who stabbed and strangled her employer's 16-year-old daughter was jailed 12 years on Monday (May 25).

Tuti Aeliyah, 30, from Indonesia, pleaded guilty to one count of culpable homicide not amounting to murder for attacking and killing Shameera Basha Noor Basha, a Secondary 4 student, at her Tampines flat on Nov 14, 2013.

At about 8am, Tuti went into the bedroom where Shameera was sleeping and stabbed her four times with a kitchen knife.

After Shameera fell onto the floor, Tuti strangled the girl with a dark pinafore.

Earlier today, Tuti's lawyer, Mr Nasser Ismail, pointed out that a psychiatric report stated his client was then suffering from severe depression with psychotic symptoms.

He added she had been instructed by demons to carry out the offence.

Read the full report in our print edition on May 26.
Subscribe to The New Paper, now available in print and digital, at http://bit.ly/tnpeshop.

 

Legend Lampard signs off in style

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Newly-wed Taufik still too busy for honeymoon

NEWLYWED: Taufik Batisah performing at Jamiyah Singapore's charity concert at Resorts World Ballroom at Sentosa.

Two months into married life, local singer Taufik Batisah is still basking in that newlywed glow.

"(Married life) hasn't really kicked in yet, but so far it has been great," he said, with a smile. "It is amazing to wake up to your best friend."

However, the couple have not had the chance to go on their honeymoon yet - the plan is a backpacking trip to Europe - due to his work commitments.

The #AwakKatMane hitmaker revealed that he will be starring in a Malaysian movie, although he cannot release details of it yet.

It will be the first time the former Singapore Idol winner will appear on the big screen. He has acted in a telemovie on Suria before.

Taufik will also be returning as a judge for MediaCorp singing competition, The Final 1.

Last night, he was among a host of regional stars who performed at Jamiyah Singapore's charity concert held at Resorts World Ballroom.

The concert is part of Jamiyah's fund-raising and awareness efforts to help disadvantaged communities in Singapore.

The funds raised, said Jamiyah president Dr Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar, will be used to expand the facilities and programmes available, such as building dementia wards in nursing homes, and expanding courses at Jamiyah's halfway homes.

Taufik's involvement in the concert has a personal meaning for him.

DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD

He feels strongly for Jamiyah's cause to help the needy because of his difficult childhood.

"Growing up, my mum, my two brothers and I lived in a two-room flat, and we needed to apply to several financial assistance schemes, so I can definitely relate to that," he shared.

He added: "If somehow my small contribution of performing can help a certain cause, I think that it is a bonus. It feels good (to be part of this)."

What feels even better is now having a wife, Ms Sheena Akbal, who is a good support system for him.

"It's nice to have someone who will look out for you," he said, adding that his wife helps to take care of his mother, who lives with the couple.

When asked if they plan to have children, he said they have no such plans in the near future although he does want children.

"I think two is enough," he added with a laugh.

Before last night's show, 40 lucky fans got a chance to meet Taufik and the other stars backstage before the concert. These lucky fans had won tickets thanks to the concert's main sponsor, Courts Singapore.

Friends Nurul Iffah, 20, and Isryan Shah, 22, who have been Taufik's fans since his days at Singapore Idol, said they were "overwhelmed" and "star struck" to have met him, albeit briefly.

Triple treat for 6,500 fans

Veteran singer Jamal Abdillah, local crooner Taufik Batisah and rock band Noah wowed Malay music lovers yesterday

Jamal Abdillah
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WE LOVE YOU: A group of Noah fans had gone there prepared. They had a banner.
WE LOVE YOU: R&B maestro Taufik Batisah asked the audience to sing along.
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