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Almost 5,000 Filipinos flee Sabah clashes

Malaysia to permanently close a village reporter, Manila

March 28, 2013

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Nearly 5,000 Filipinos have fled clashes in Sabah since hostilities erupted last month between the so-called Sultan of Sabah and Malaysia’s armed forces.

An estimated 4,721 people have taken refuge in Mindanao, according to a report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council released on Thursday.

The Council report said 10.39 million pesos (US$254,000) in food and relief supplies have been distributed to the displaced while an additional 13.4 million pesos have been earmarked for other humanitarian efforts, including a mobile social welfare office in Tawi-Tawi province.

Malaysian security forces continue to hunt followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah and have been conducting offensive sweeps since March 5, following deadly clashes that broke out on March 1. 

The sultan’s claims to the disputed area date back to when Malaysia was ruled by the British and involve a sovereignty issue that has never been fully resolved. 

The most recent dispute resurfaced in October after a peace deal between the Philippine government and communist rebels left out mention of the sultanate, a parcel of land that lies adjacent to the restive southern Philippine island of Mindanao. 

Malaysian authorities, meanwhile, have announced the permanent closure of a village in Sabah where followers of Kiram hid out in February. Residents of Kampung Tanduo in Sabah will be relocated to a new area, authorities said. 

"As far as national security is concerned, it is only right that the residents of the village be relocated to a new place," Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib was quoted as saying.

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