UN urges peaceful end to Sabah standoff
MANILA, Philippines - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged on Wednesday, March 7, "dialogue among all parties" for a peaceful resolution of the standoff in Sabah.
Malaysian security forces are now trying to hunt down the Filipino gunmen after they apparently escaped an air and ground assault on Tuesday, while unknown numbers of battle-hardened Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas announced they will travel to Sabah to fight for the so-called "Royal Sulu Army."
Ban is closely "following the situation in Sabah" and is concerned about "the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants in the region," a statement from his office said.
Authorities in the southern Philippines are bracing for a massive deportation of Filipinos from Sabah, where tens of thousands of illegal Filipino immigrants work in the palm oil plantations.
The UN chief likewise urged all parties to "facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards."
Manila has been pushing for Kuala Lumpur to grant clearance for a Philippine Navy ship to proceed to Lahad Datu on a "humanitarian" mission to provide consular and medical assistance to Filipinos affected by the crisis, especially women and civilians not involved in the hostilities.
Malaysia has yet to respond to the request.
Ban Ki-moon did not mention the possibility of sending UN peacekeepers to Sabah, as requested by self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and so far rejected by the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com