Presence of Malaysian troops in Saudi Arabia being re-evaluated, says KL defence minister

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said in a statement that the Malaysian Armed Forces troops in Saudi Arabia were on standby to evacuate Malaysians from Yemen.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said in a statement that the Malaysian Armed Forces troops in Saudi Arabia were on standby to evacuate Malaysians from Yemen.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The government is reassessing the decision of the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration to Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) troops in Saudi Arabia.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said in a statement on Wednesday (June 20) that the ATM team was on standby to evacuate Malaysians from Yemen.

"Malaysia has never been involved in the attack on Yemen, which is also a Muslim country. Nevertheless, the ATM presence in Saudi Arabia has indirectly mired Malaysia in the Middle East conflict," he said.

Mr Mohamad said Malaysia had always practised a neutral policy, and that the country does not side with the political ideology of any of the world's superpowers.

He added that the Malaysian government has been actively involved in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and even chaired it once.

"The government will make a decision on the matter in the near future after a re-evaluation has been completed," he said.

He did not say how many Malaysian troops are in Saudi Arabia.

Former defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein, from the previous BN government, said in October last year that Malaysian troops would remain in Saudi Arabia to provide humanitarian assistance and contribute to rebuilding efforts in Yemen if required.

He said, in a speech in the Saudi capital of Riyadh at the 'The Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen' conference then, that the ATM forces were initially based in Riyadh to provide assistance in the evacuation of Malaysians in Yemen.

"However, in light of the current situation, I have instructed the Malaysian Armed Forces to remain in the Kingdom, ever-ready to provide humanitarian assistance and possibly contribute to rebuilding efforts in Yemen if required."