MANILA, Philippines – The Malaysian Defense Minister denied Monday the reported human rights abuses committed by Malaysian security forces against Filipinos in Sabah.
“I believe that these are just more baseless allegations. If there is any shooting, the police and the armed forces will make the necessary announcements,” Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Malaysian media in a press conference.
Filipinos who returned to the country to escape the escalating violence in Sabah recounted to Philippine media how Malaysian police were rounding up Filipino immigrants, even those with appropriate documents, and throwing them in jail.
Others also described how many Filipinos were shot by Malaysian police during their sweeps of the villages looking for the supporters of the Sultan.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already issued a statement asking the Malaysian government to clarify what actually happened.
“The allegations are alarming and should be properly and immediately addressed by concerned authorities,” DFA said in a statement following the reports.
“The Department urges the Malaysian government to take steps to clarify these alleged incidents,” it said. “We reiterate our call on the Malaysian Government to give humane treatment to the Filipinos under their custody.”
Malaysian security forces have been hunting down the supporters of the Sulu “Royal army,” led by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s brother Rajah Muda Agbimuddin, who sailed to Tanduao village, Lahad Datu to reclaim what they insist is their rightful territory.
The Malaysian government launched an all-out air and ground assault against the group to end the standoff but failed to apprehend all the members.
Scores of casualties have been reported both from the Malaysian side and the supporters of Sultanate in several skirmishes before and after the assault.
Police have since cordoned of the surrounding villages and are continuously conducting sweeping operations to flush out the remaining members.