News / Asia

Malaysia, Philippines Try to Defuse Tensions

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, points at a map of Borneo's eastern Sabah state as he talks to reporters in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines, March 5, 2013.Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, points at a map of Borneo's eastern Sabah state as he talks to reporters in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines, March 5, 2013.
x
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, points at a map of Borneo's eastern Sabah state as he talks to reporters in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines, March 5, 2013.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, points at a map of Borneo's eastern Sabah state as he talks to reporters in suburban Taguig, south of Manila, Philippines, March 5, 2013.
Simone Orendain
— When a group of more than 200 Filipinos entered a town in eastern Malaysia last month to reassert their centuries-old claim to the province of Sabah, it triggered a standoff that evolved into a military operation.  So far, Malaysian authorities say 66 people have died in the fighting. 

Since the start of the crisis, Malaysia has been calling on followers of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo to surrender unconditionally.  But the group loyal to the self-proclaimed sultan, Jamalul Kiram the third has refused to disarm. 

They demanded talks with the Malaysian government to try to charge more for the yearly token payment they have received for Sabah since 1963, when Malaysia became independent of Britain.

The sultanate’s policy advisor, Almarim Centi Tillah says the increase is secondary to their main complaint.

"Malaysia has prospered [in] leaps and bounds, benefited [in] leaps and bounds out of our property.  And you know in Islam… you cannot own the property of another Muslim unless it’s given to you," said Tillah.

Malaysia has continuously said that it owns Sabah, which has fertile ground for palm oil plantations.  The country cites a favorable International Court of Justice 2002 ruling on its claims to islands off Sabah.

The Philippine government also has repeatedly called for the Kiram group to return or disarm.  It's military and police are securing the small island provinces near Sabah to try to keep more followers from entering Sabah and intercept them as they leave. 

The fighting has so far displaced about 1,500 of the roughly 800,000 Filipinos who live and work in Sabah.  And Manila has appealed to Kuala Lumpur to keep its remaining citizens out of the fray.  The Philippine government is monitoring human rights complaints of displaced Filipinos who fled Sabah.

Rommel Banlaoi, who heads the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, says the two countries have to tread very carefully. 

"They’ll want to make the situation better because if this situation will deteriorate, the consequences on regional security will be very, very costly.  So we [would] be facing another flashpoint," he said.

Banlaoi says the two countries along with eight others in the region all entered into an agreement to set aside competing claims when forming the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1967.  He says earlier attempts to form a similar coalition failed because of the Sabah issue and other territorial rifts.

"They don’t want to raise the territorial conflicts to affect ASEAN solidarity otherwise Southeast Asia will crumble," he said.

Malaysia is the Philippines third largest trade partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and for 10 years it has held the role of facilitator in the Philippine government’s peace negotiations with the largest Muslim rebel group.  The two sides signed a preliminary peace agreement in October while Malaysia’s prime minister and facilitator looked on.

Meantime, the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo policy advisor, Almarim Tillah says the group is looking to outside bodies such as ASEAN and the United Nations to raise their claim.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Roperto O. Toga from: Cotabato City
March 15, 2013 10:07 PM
It can be defused only when Sabah be given back to the Sultanate of Sulu and Malaysia shall have paid the loses of Mindanao revolution which she orchestrated and stoke that lost more 100,000 lives and tremendous destructions of properties.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid