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

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid