Sunday August 22, 2004

Malaysia to send armed peace monitors to Mindanao

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia will send a team of lightly armed peace monitors to Mindanao, a government official said on Sunday, in a step towards ending three decades of rebellion.
The dispatch of 60 monitors is part of a push by mainly Muslim Malaysia to end the fighting. It is also set to host more peace talks between the Philippine government and the main rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The Malaysian group, to include police, soldiers and diplomatic officials, would be monitoring a truce put in place in July last year, said a defense ministry spokesman.
"They will be there to help see the ceasefire between the MILF and the Philippine government is kept," he said. "But they'll only be lightly armed, for self defense."
Both sides in the conflict had agreed to the dispatch of the peace monitors, he said. It was not known when the Malaysian team would leave for the Philippines.
Kuala Lumpur first hosted peace talks between the Philippine government and the rebels in 2001 but the talks broke down the following year after fresh flare-ups.
The rebels said this month they were ready again to talk if the Philippine government dropped bombing charges against MILF leaders in connection with attacks at an airport and wharf in southern Mindanao last year.
The MILF said the government was meeting another of its preconditions for talks by starting to withdraw troops from a rebel camp they occupied during the last major fighting in February last year.
Malaysia sent peacekeepers to Somalia and Bosnia in the 1990s.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"