Malaysia has uncovered 139 graves thought to contain the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh scattered around more than two dozen suspected human trafficking camps near the border with Thailand, the country's police chief said on Monday.
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 Southeast Asia by boat from Myanmar, most of them Rohingya Muslims who say they are fleeing persecution, and Bangladesh.
"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 500 meters (550 yards) of the Thai border in an operation that began on May 11, 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," Khalid added.
He said one of the grave sites was just 100 metres or so from the site where twenty-six bodies were exhumed from a grave in Thailand's Songkhla province in early May.