Sabah closes eastern borders to stop kidnapping menace


KOTA KINABALU • Sabah is shutting down its eastern international boundaries to cross-border trade as part of measures to prevent further kidnappings in the area.

Chief Minister Musa Aman said that the decades-old barter trade activity in Sandakan and other east coast towns was to cease immediately. This was among seven measures the Sabah Cabinet agreed to at a meeting yesterday, following the abduction of four Malaysian sailors from a tugboat in waters near Pulau Ligitan, off Semporna, last Friday.

Other measures include the immediate halt of transhipment trade of petroleum and gas products in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone), spanning 10 districts from Kudat to Tawau.

He said amendments would be made to the 7pm to 5am sea curfew in seven east coast districts from Beluran to Tawau, and details were being worked out by security forces.

Datuk Seri Musa said security forces would also seize any foreign pump boats in Sabah waters. He also said that merchant vessels sailing in high-risk areas would be given protection by Malaysian security forces.

"We will need the cooperation of vessel owners to ensure such protection materialises," he said after chairing the state Cabinet meeting.

He added that the proposed ferry services between the northern- most town of Kudat and Palawan in the southern Philippines that were scheduled to begin in May had been deferred.

Mr Musa said the measures reflected the Sabah government's resolve to rid the east coast of the menace posed by kidnap-for-ransom groups based in the southern Philippines.

"This is not only a Sabah problem, but one that has national implications as well," he added.

When asked if there were any links between barter traders and cross-border criminal groups, Mr Musa said: "We do not know who these people (the barter traders) are bringing in."


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2016, with the headline Sabah closes eastern borders to stop kidnapping menace. Subscribe