Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated  / Source: Associated Press

A cluster of abandoned jungle camps used by human traffickers contained 139 suspected graves as well as barbed-wire pens likely used to cage migrants, Malaysian authorities said Monday.

Forensics experts were exhuming the suspected graves found at 28 vacated camps in the hilly jungle area on the border with Thailand where trafficking syndicates were known to operate, according to national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar.

"It is a very sad scene," he told reporters at a police outpost in the town of Wang Kelian, several miles from the camps, one of which appeared large enough to hold about 300 people. "I am shocked. We never expected this kind of cruelty."

At one camp, police found several parts of a decomposed body inside a wooden pen.

This undated handout photo made available on May 25, 2015 by the Royal Malaysian Police shows an abandoned migrant detention camp used by people-smugglers in a jungle near the Malaysia-Thailand border in Genting Perah.ROYAL MALAYSIAN POLICE / AFP - Getty Images

The parts were placed into white bags and brought to Wang Kelian, and district police chief Rizani Ismail said they would be examined by forensics experts.

They would are also set to begin digging up other suspected graves — mounds of earth, covered with leaves and marked by sticks — on Tuesday.

The finding in the northern Malaysian state of Perlis follows a similar discovery earlier this month by police in Thailand who unearthed dozens of bodies from shallow graves on the Thai side of the border.

Thai police Maj. Gen. Puthichart Ekkachan said 36 bodies had been found there in seven abandoned camps. The discoveries have exposed hidden networks of jungle camps run by human smugglers, who have for years held countless desperate people captive while extorting ransoms from their families.

Most of those who have fallen victim to the trafficking networks are members of Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya Muslim community or impoverished migrants from Bangladesh, part of a wave of people who have fled their homelands to reach countries like Malaysia, where they hope to find work or live freely.

IN-DEPTH

-The Associated Press