Monday, August 4, 2008

Malaysian troops in Mindanao to stay; Our services are needed, says Foreign Minister

Malaysia reverses decision on Philippines pullout
Agence France-Presse - 8/4/2008 8:57 AM GMT
Malaysia said Monday it had reversed its decision to withdraw troops from the southern Philippines, where they are monitoring a ceasefire between the government and Muslim separatists.
"Our services are needed," Foreign Minister Rais Yatim told a press conference, adding that troop numbers could be "significantly enhanced."
The pullout of 40 Malaysian troops stationed in four cities in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao began in May, and there are currently just 12 remaining.
"The people domestically there require our presence and the Philippines government has been kind enough to also indicate that Malaysia's presence will be a plus point," Rais said.
"So deriving from that, we will continue our work," he said, adding he would consult with the prime minister on how large the contingent should be.
Malaysian forces had made up the bulk of the international team monitoring a 2003 ceasefire between the Manila government and separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Malaysia, which has also hosted resulting peace talks, had declared it would not send further troops after peace negotiations stalled over the issue of "ancestral domain" claimed by the MILF. After a recent breakthrough on that issue, the MILF was due to sign a pact here Tuesday giving them control of large swathes of land in an autonomous region.
But in another hitch, the Philippine Supreme Court on Monday issued an order stopping the government from signing the deal following massive street protests against it.
The announcement on Malaysia's ceasefire monitors came just before reports emerged about the court decision.


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