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Message-ID: <199804022104.QAA06018@access4.digex.net>
Date: Thu, 2 Apr 1998 16:04:16 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: MY,IN: No Aceh bases, assures KL (StraitsTimes)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

X-URL: http://straitstimes.asia1.com/pages/stmal1.html

No Aceh bases, assures KL

By Brendan Pereira, The Straits Times,
2 April 1998

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA does not want to offend its neighbours by allowing illegal immigrants to use the country as a base for separatist activities, said Deputy Home Minister Datuk Tajol Rosli Ghazali.

The government valued its good ties with Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines and wanted to maintain them, he added.

Addressing the issue of Acehnese who say that they are political refugees, he said that Malaysia regarded all Indonesians who entered the country without proper documents as illegal immigrants.

The most important thing for us is to maintain good relations with Indonesia.

At the same time, we do not want these people who claim to be political refugees to turn our country into their bases. This can, in turn, affect relations with our neighbours.

The minister's comments come as 12 Acehnese illegal immigrants are holed up in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office here, seeking political asylum.

Last week, hundreds of Acehnese in three detention camps rioted and clashed with security forces trying to send them home.

Following the skirmish and the action of the Acehnese who crashed through the locked gates of the UNHCR, human rights groups and the UN agency for refugees have asked for access into the detention camps.

Datuk Tajol Rosli said that the government had not received a formal request from any organisation to visit the camps.

We will consider their application if they do so. We cannot say that conditions in our detention centres are very good as they are filled to the maximum.

The Straits Times understands that many Acehnese entered the country illegally years ago, and were allowed to stay on temporary passes.

Some of them used the refuge to spread the struggle of Aceh Merdeka, or an independent homeland, much to the displeasure of Malaysian authorities.

To compound matters, the message was sent back to Aceh that Malaysia would grant immigrants from there refugee status. This resulted in boatloads of people crossing the Straits of Malacca.

The question of Malaysia being used as a base for separatist movements came to the fore recently when Thailand accused it of harbouring rebels from the Pattani United Liberation Organisation.

Malaysia denied the charge, and to show its good faith, its police forces have rounded up militants who had crossed the border and handed them over to Thai authorities.