World / Asia-Pacific

Sabah still involved in territorial row

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-04 07:13

The territorial dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines is over much of the eastern part of the state of Sabah, a territory known as North Borneo before the formation of Malaysia in 1963. The Philippines, presenting itself as the successor state of the Sultanate of Sulu, retains a "dormant claim" on Sabah on the basis that the territory was only leased to the British North Borneo Co in 1878, with the sovereignty of the sultanate over the territory never having been relinquished.

However, Malaysia considers this dispute a "nonissue" as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession, and it deems that the residents of Sabah exercised their right of self-determination when they voted to join Malaysia.

The cases in Sabah

In recent years, Sabah has experienced several attacks from anti-government groups. Local police blamed Abu Sayyaf - one of several militant Islamist separatist groups based in and around the southern Philippines.

The group may have received funding from al-Qaida in the early 1990s through Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaida-affiliated top terrorist Ramzi Yousef operated in the Philippines in the mid-1990s and trained Abu Sayyaf soldiers. The 2002 edition of the US State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism mentions links to al-Qaida.

On May 3, 2000, Abu Sayyaf guerillas occupied the Malaysian diving resort island of Sipadan and took 21 hostages, including 10 tourists and 11 resort workers - 19 non-Filipino nationals in total. The hostages were taken to an Abu Sayyaf base in Jolo, Sulu.

In 2010, two Chinese Malaysians were abducted in Sabah by Abu Sayyaf militants and taken to the Philippines.

In February 2013, a group of armed men claiming to have been sent by the Sultan of Sulu landed in Sabah, and several armed clashes occurred with Malaysian police. At least 67 Sulu forces were killed, including two civilians and nine Malaysian forces.

Taiwan man killed

A businessman from Taipei was shot dead by suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Pom Pom Island off Semporna in November, and his wife was abducted.

Initial reports indicated a group of heavily armed men arrived at the Pom Pom Island Resort on Nov 15.

The gunmen stormed into a restaurant where the Chinese couple were the only customers and fired several shots.

The victim, Lim Min Hsu, 57, was shot twice in the chest and ribs, and he died at the scene. His 56-year-old wife, An Wei Chang, was taken away by the gunmen.

The gunmen, who authorities suspect were Abu Sayyaf terrorists, fled in a boat to the southern Philippines. The restaurant supervisor, known only as Leonardo, heard the gunshots and rushed to the General Operations Force camp about 1 km from the island to report the incident.

When police arrived at the restaurant, they found Lim's body. Tables and chairs were scattered all over the place.

Authorities also reported that the gunmen had ransacked several of the villas at the resort.

The wife was released one month later in the southern Philippines. Authorities did not say whether a ransom was paid.

China Daily

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