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Bangladesh PM: Migrants Leaving Country Are 'Mentally Sick'

A check point is seen at the entry point to Malaysia - Thailand border in Wang Kelian, Malaysia on Sunday, May 24, 2015. Malaysian authorities said Sunday that they have discovered graves in more than a dozen abandoned camps used by human traffickers.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Sunday that impoverished migrants fleeing her country are tainting its image and are "mentally sick."

She said the migrants, who are paying human traffickers for perilous journeys on packed boats to other Southeast Asian nations, "could have better lives in Bangladesh."

The Bangladeshi leader said, "There is sufficient work for them, still they are leaving the country in such disastrous ways." She said the migrants "are tainting Bangladesh's image in the international arena."

The state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency quoted Ms. Hasina as saying that "punishment will have to be given" to both the human traffickers and the migrants leaving the country.

Immigrant Crisis in Southeast Asia, Royhingya peoples from Burma and Bangladesh
Immigrant Crisis in Southeast Asia, Royhingya peoples from Burma and Bangladesh

Her comments came as Malaysian authorities say police there have found 30 mass graves containing the remains of people believed to be Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants from Myanmar.

Home Minister Zahid Hamidi told reporters Sunday that the graves were found along the border with Thailand near villages that had been used by human traffickers.

"The IGP (Inspector General of Police) and his deputy is currently at the Malaysian-Thailand borders for confirmation and identification of the bodies in the mass grave," he said. "The mass graves area has been identified by VAT 69 (special police force) and PGA (general police force) as being used for human trafficking activities of refugees."

Local media reported that the graves containing hundreds of skeletons were found in and near detention camps used by human traffickers of Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants.

Most of the Bangladeshis are seeking to escape poverty in their homeland, while the Rohingya mostly are looking to escape discriminatory treatment by Myanmar's Buddhist majority.

Officials previously denied that any such mass graves or slave camps existed on Malaysian soil.

The national police chief is expected to hold a news conference on the matter Monday.

Similar camps and graves were found earlier this month on the Thai side of the border, again including Bangladeshis and Rohingya fleeing persecution in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

This month, more than 3,500 Southeast Asian migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off boats along the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Some material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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