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No sign of end to conflict in southern Philippines

ICC Note:

The fighting that continues in the southern Philippines over the botched “peace” deal with Muslim rebels has caused many to believe that there may be no end in sight for the divided nation. Malaysia, key in overseeing a ceasefire, has pulled its military out of Mindanao and is uneasy about continued involvement.

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1/2/09 Philippines (MalaysianInsider) Fighting is again raging in the southern Philippines and there are doubts that Malaysia will return to the negotiating table as broker of the peace talks between Manila and Moro separatists.

Malaysia has pulled out its military contingent from Mindanao, exasperated over what it called the “lack of progress” in the peace talks it had hosted since 2001 as part of its cross-border diplomacy.

No doubt, Malaysia played a key role in overseeing the ceasefire accord between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that led to a substantial decline of fighting in the south.

Indeed, a deal was made, and Manila and the MILF were supposed to sign in KL the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD). But Manila’s opposition parties were outraged by the proposed MoA-AD, labelling it as a sell-out of Philippine territory. They cited it as one of the grounds in their fourth impeachment suit against President Gloria Arroyo. Her senior aides say the MoA-AD was not final and was subject to a plebiscite and other constitutional processes.

In the event, the signing was aborted when the Philippine Supreme Court, acting on mounting public complaints, shot down the MoA-AD, ruling that it was illegal and unconstitutional.

The proposed pact sought to recognise the MILF as a juridical entity with rights and powers over Mindanao as the ancestral domain of the Muslims. In effect, the resource-rich south would become a separate state.

Disgusted over the botched deal, the MILF went on a rampage, unleashing its forces against military outposts and civilian communities, displacing hundreds of thousands of Muslim and Christian families who are now being attended to as refugees by United Nations welfare agencies.

But the conflict, deeply rooted in abject poverty, social injustice and inequality, has done so much collateral damage that Malaysia may no longer find it tenable to pursue its dream of peace and stability in its troubled Asean neighbour.

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