Saturday, May 01, 2010

Brunei sends soldiers to monitor cease-fire in Mindanao

Six Brunei soldiers get farewell honors as they head to Mindanao to serve as cease-fire observers in these photographs from the Radio Television Brunei.

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 1, 2010) – Brunei has deployed six of its soldiers to serve as cease-fire observers in the southern Philippines where Muslim rebels are currently negotiating peace with Manila.

The Radio Television Brunei reported that the six soldiers are part of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces and they will join the 6th Group of the International Monitoring Team to Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group fighting for self-determination in Mindanao.

It said the soldiers, the 6th contingent of Brunei, is led by Major Pengiran Hamdiah bin Pengiran Haji Hashim. They left Brunei for Mindanao on Friday.

“As in the previous duty, the six RBAF International Monitoring Team personnel will form one mobile team and will be located at Cotabato City. The group will be responsible in observing and monitoring the implementation of cessation of hostilities, as well as the socio-economic development aspects of agreements signed between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MILF,” the report said.

The 60-man International Monitoring Team is composed of Malaysia, Libya, Brunei, Japan, and Norway. It is tasked to monitor the implementation of truce between government and MILF forces.

In 2008, Malaysia disgruntled over the slow progress of the peace talks, recalled about two dozen truce observers and blamed Manila for the stalled talks.

Filipino and rebel peace negotiators have recently signed several agreements ahead of general elections on May 10, but a major accord that would end decades of secessionist war in the restive southern region of Mindanao is still uncertain.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator, said the agreements will provide administrative support to the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute, the cease-fire committees; the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and a mechanism to return the internally displaced persons.

He said peace negotiators also agreed on the civilian protection component of the International Monitoring Team and the Philippines campaign to ban landmines.

The MILF, however, said the fate of the interim agreement is still not settled, even if the peace panels agreed on some common areas which are yet to be discussed in their next meeting this month.

It said peace negotiators met in the Malaysian capital to try to resolve differences in their drafts on the proposed interim agreement on transitional mechanism on governance, which will bridge the present and the incoming administration in the Philippines.

Malaysia is currently facilitating the peace talks which President Gloria Arroyo opened in 2001 in an effort to end bloody fighting in Mindanao. But Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF’s deputy for political affairs, said a peace deal with Arroyo, who is to step down next month when her term ends, is unlikely.

He said there is not enough time to continue the peace talks, but Jaafar expressed optimism the next president will honor all agreements signed under Arroyo’s rule.

“We have no more time to continue the peace talks and the peace negotiators are trying to reach an interim agreement so we may preserve the gains of the talks. We just hope the next president will continue the peace process. We are for peace,” Jaafar said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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