Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Malaysia Confronts Intruders on Borneo ; Philippine Men Claim They Have Links to Island through Former Sultanate

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Malaysia Confronts Intruders on Borneo ; Philippine Men Claim They Have Links to Island through Former Sultanate

Article excerpt

After at least 80 men dressed in military uniforms arrived by small boats in Sabah, Malaysia, the prime minister of Malaysia vowed to try to end the standoff peacefully, with no loss of life.

The police in Malaysia were in a standoff late Thursday in the eastern state of Sabah with at least 80 men from the Philippines claiming to have historic links to the island of Borneo, the police said.

The men, who arrived by boat in Sabah on Tuesday, said they were descendants of the leaders of the Sultanate of Sulu, an area ruled from the southern Philippines that in the 18th century included parts of what is now Malaysian Borneo.

Lahad Datu, the small village in eastern Malaysia where the men are, is less than two hours by speedboat from the southern Philippines, where several violent rebel groups operate. But Tan Sri Ismail Omar, the head of the Malaysian Royal Police, told reporters on Thursday that the men denied links to any militant organization in the Philippines.

The police chief said that the situation was peaceful and that negotiations were continuing. The men, calling themselves the Royal Soldiers of Sulu Sultanate, were seeking to stay in Malaysia, based on a historic claim to the area. The police were insisting that they return to the Philippines.

Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, who was visiting Sabah on Thursday, told reporters that the group of men was surrounded, according to the Malaysia state news agency, Bernama.

"In terms of strength, we have the upper hand in combat power to arrest them, but the government opts for negotiation to break the stalemate so that they leave peacefully to southern Philippines," Bernama quoted the prime minister as saying. …

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