BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi – Two wooden launches arrived at dawn earlier today from Sabah, Malaysia carrying over 400 passengers, mostly women and children, the Governor Sadikul Sahali reported.
Governer Sahali said that the two motor launches also contained the refugees' appliances, furniture, and foodstuffs like rice, noodles and canned goods.
The governor said that most of the passengers of the boats were women and their children.
“I was told that most of the passengers were women and their children, since their husbands had to be left behind so as not to be arrested by the Malaysian navy,” Sahali said.
He said that there are reports that the Malaysian police are arresting Filipino Muslim men who were found returning to the province, accusing them of conspiring with the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu.
Once arrested, the Malaysian police would allegedly start beating them with a “rattan pole stick” until parts of their body bled.
He also reported that the Malaysian authorities are now allegedly preventing Filipino Muslim children from attending their schools in Sabah, and are asking them to go home to the Philippines.
According to the governor, this is the reason why the children, together with their parents, left Sabah and arrived in Tawi-Tawi earlier today.
The refugees said that they had to leave Sabah or risk being imprisoned by the Malaysian government.
Sahali said that his province continues to receive refugees from Sabah and expressed fear that the availability of food in the province might not be enough in the coming days.
He said that this projection is likely to happen because the province is dependent on imports from Malaysia for major foodstuffs like rice, noodles, and canned goods.
Now that the Malaysian government has imposed an embargo on Muslim Filipinos trading with them, prices of all commodities that are imported from Malaysia that are sold in the province has increased tremendously, he said.
He added that the food situation in the province has given traders no other option but to secure their food supplies in Zamboanga City to feed the people in the province.