Indian Catholic News

Malaysia joins Indonesia, Philippines patroling Sulu Sea

Concerned about Islamic militancy, the three countries are pooling their security forces.

Kuala Lumpur: 

Malaysian security forces are coordinating with those of Indonesia and the Philippines to help quash Islamic militancy in their shared region.

The measures announced June 12 come as Philippines military conducts operations against hundreds of militants linked to the so-called Islamic State (IS) who have held several areas of the Mindanao city of Marawi for four weeks.

Beginning next week, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines will conduct joint naval patrols in the Sulu Sea. Air surveillance operations will also be conducted, to address concerns of what is occurring in Marawi and to curb cross-border kidnapping-for-ransom activities carried out by the Abu Sayyaf rebel group, reported the media.

Since fighting began in Marawi at the end of May, Malaysian security forces said they have beefed up security along Sabah's east coast.

But Malaysian authorities have been tight-lipped about threats the country may face from the on-going battle for the Philippine city.

Malaysians and Indonesians have been among militants killed in the city by the Philippine military.

Due to persistent cross border attacks carried out by criminal groups and Islamic militants from the southern Philippines, much of Sabah has been under enhanced security measures since 2013.

A maritime curfew between dusk and dawn has been in place along the east coast of the state since 2014. It encompasses 314,087 square kilometers from shore to the international border with the Philippines. It stretches for about 362 nautical miles down the coast of Sabah.

However, informed sources say the border areas are still porous, adding that people-smuggling routes remain in operation.

"All this talk of sealing the border is just talk. The words 'sealing the border' have become misused words," said the source.

"How is it that people still come and go as they please if the border is sealed," he pointed out.

A resident of Tawau, the third-largest town in Sabah, said "the naval blockade by the three nations may have some bite and cause some problems" for those used to crossing the border frequently.

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous, however was skeptical the enhanced cooperation on border security between the nations will seal off the borders.

"The maritime border between us and the southern Philippines is just 20 minutes' boat ride away," he said.

"It will be difficult … these people [from the Southern Philippines] know the seas around here. They can navigate in the dark so who can stop them?" he asked.

He said that the residents of Tawau are quite calm about the situation.

"There was some concern soon after [Philippines President Rodrigo] Duterte announced martial law but that's died down," he said.

"The fighting in Marawi is too far away for many," he said adding that most of the illegal migrant Filipinos living in the town are from the Mindanao city of Zamboanga which is quite some distance from Marawi.

Source: UCAN

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