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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     27 October  2011

Moro insurgency admits government payoff

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday confirmed that it received 5 million pesos (US$116,000) from President Benigno Aquino 3rd as part of government support to  its leadership program.

The story broke on the P5 million in supposed financial assistance to the separatist MILF on Wednesday.

The Muslim rebel group, which is negotiating peace with Manila, said the funding would be used for capacity-building programs for emerging Muslim leaders and professionals under the auspices of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

Malacañang admitted that President Aquino ordered the release of the money after his secret meeting with MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in August in Tokyo, Japan.

Its  spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, during a radio interview, also on Wednesday said that the President specifically instructed the government’s top peace adviser Marvic Leonen to speed up  the release of the P5 million after his one-on-one talk with Murad.

Leonen issued a statement also on Wednesday confirming that Mr. Aquino approved the appropriation of a fund for the BLMI.

Ghazali Jaafar, the MILF deputy leader, said that the money was handed to the group during a meeting in Malaysia last August.

He added that the funding was agreed upon during the watch  of President Gloria Arroyo and was just implemented by the Aquino administration.

“What’s important here is to have an institution and training for Bangsamoro professionals,” Jaafar said.

He doused fears by critics of the MILF that the money could be used —or was already used—to purchase weapons for the MILF rebels, citing proper accounting procedures on how the government funding would be spent for programs of the BLMI.

Besides the Philippines, the MILF said that Japan is also supporting the institute, having funded the construction of a building in the town of Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao province under its Grant Assistance for Human Security Grassroots Project.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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