The Malaysian government has closed its Sabah border to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in a protest to the recent kidnapping of Malaysian nationals by the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group operating between the waters of Sabah and ARMM island- provinces in southern Philippines.
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary, said Malaysian authorities implemented a blockade since last week to Tawi-tawi, an ARMM province component nearest to Sabah, which halted the centuries – old barter trading activity in the area between Malaysia and the Philippines.
“The ASG kidnapping activity is now a national issue that is why (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman is currently in Manila talking to Malacañang about this,” she told newsmen Thursday during a press briefing regarding updates on the region.
On April 2, armed ASG militants onboard a speedboat snatched four Malaysian nationals from a ship off the east coast of Sabah and sped-off towards the direction of the Philippine territory after the incident.
Five other crew members of the ship from Myanmar and Indonesia were not harmed and left behind by the ASG abductors.
Malaysia has strongly condemned the abduction, pressing it to close its border to ARMM over an indefinite period of time.
“The nagging security problem in the region’s island-provinces remain foremost in the agenda of the government’s peace efforts in the south,” Alamia stressed.
She said negotiations between ARMM and Malaysian government are underway to reopen Sabah to Tawi-tawi and resume the customary barter trade in the region.
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