BUKIT KAYU HITAM, KEDAH - Malaysia's Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya said on Monday (Dec 24) that Jakarta has assured Kuala Lumpur its soldiers won't repeat the incident on Dec 11, when five Malaysians from Sarawak were accused of stealing wood on the Kalimantan side of the border and held hostage by several members of the Indonesian army.
"Indonesia has admitted their mistake and they welcomed our reminder to ensure that it will not happen again," Datuk Marzuki said after attending an event in Kedah, as quoted by New Straits Times (NST) online news.
He said Indonesia has informed Malaysia's Foreign Ministry that the action of the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) soldiers were wrong, and acknowledged Malaysia's protest note on the incursion, the report said.
"We (Malaysia) have taken strict action against what happened as we sent the protest note on the matter," Mr Marzuki said.
Malaysia's Sarawak and Sabah states share a long border with Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces on Borneo island.
The five Malaysians, aged between 15 and 64, were harvesting wood in a jungle in Serian - on the Sarawak side - when they were allegedly approached by two men in TNI military fatigues at around noon on Dec 11.
The army men were armed with 5.56mm Pindad SS-1 assault rifles, the primary weapon of TNI, according to a report in New Sunday Times, the Sunday edition of NST.
The five men were allegedly held at gunpoint and ordered to drive their four-wheel drive across the border into Kalimantan, to an Indonesian military outpost.
Sarawak police confirmed the incident on Sunday.
The soldiers accused the Malaysians of stealing wood from the Indonesian side, it has been alleged.
During the journey, according to the newspaper report, the soldiers roughed up the five men and threatened to shoot them if they resisted. The soldiers also allegedly fired off two rounds to show that they meant business.
Three of the Malaysians were allegedly held overnight. Two others were said to have been released about 4pm to inform their families to hand over RM10,000 (S$3,290) and two new chainsaws that same evening.
But the two Malaysians went instead to Malaysia's Balai Ringin Military Camp to report the incident, according to the New Sunday Times report, leading to bilateral negotiations to release the three men.
The trio was released the next day by Malaysian soldiers who crossed into Kalimantan.
The newspaper showed a picture of three Malaysians with three men in Indonesian military fatigues, with a caption saying the four-wheel drive vehicle was also handed back.