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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid