Kiram camp calls for unilateral ceasefire, Malaysia rejects

Kim Arveen Patria
Kim Arveen Patria
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

(UPDATE3) Malaysia on Thursday rejected calls for a unilateral ceasefire made by Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in the standoff in Sabah.

"I told President Aquino they must lay down their arms immediately," reports quoted Prime Minister Najib Razakas saying.

"They have to surrender their arms and they have to do it as soon as possible," he added.

Kiram earlier called for a halt in attacks to "avoid more bloodshed and crimes" in the escalation of the standoff over the Sulu Sultanate's claim in Sabah.

In a press conference at the Kiram residence in Taguig earlier, Sulu Sultanate spokesperson Abraham Idjirani also urged Malaysia to declare a similar halt in attacks.

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Malaysia last Friday launched an all-out offensive against Kiram's followers who have staked out Lahad Datu, Sabah since Feb. 9.

"The achievement of the Sultanate of Sulu obtained over the last few days cannot compare to the value of lives lost since the March 1st massacre," Idjirani said.

Malaysia Defense Minister Zahid Hamidi however refused calls for a ceasefire.

"Don't believe the ceasefire offer by Jamalul Kiram. For the sake of Sabahans and all Malaysians, destroy all the militants first," Hamidi said in his Twitter account.

Hamidi added: "Malaysia will not accept a unilateral ceasefire unless the militants surrender unconditionally"

Related story: Malaysia may seek Sultan extradition 

The declaration of the ceasefire came hours after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged an end to the violent standoff.

In a statement, the UN chief raised "concern about the impact this situation may have on the civilian population, including migrants" in Sabah.

This also comes amid Malaysia's plans to extradite the Sulu Sultan.

An emotional Sultan Kiram meanwhile thanked the UN, noting that they have been writing to the international body about their concerns.

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The group led by Raja Muda Kiram, however, will stay where they are and continue to take a defensive stand, Idjirani said.

Once Malaysia has heeded calls for a ceasefire, the Sultanate's men will be fetched by their relatives, he added.

(With reports from Lydia Gomez, Yahoo! Malaysia)