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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid