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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                       20  August 2011

Aquino: separatist leader can dream

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The leader of the country’s reputedly biggest separatist group can dream on, President Aquino’s spokesman said on Friday as it denied offering the position of Officer-in-Charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim.

“No offer was made. I can categorically state that no offer was made by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to Chairman Murad,” according to Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Lacierda said that the government has not heard from the MILF about the status of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Chairman Ameril Umbra Kato.

Kato, who was earlier declared by the MILF as insignificant and a lost command, has announced the formation of his own BIFF, which he said would press the struggle for an independent Mindanao in southern Philippines.

He was said to have broken away from the MILF as he did not approve of peace negotiations between the Aquino administration and the rebel leadership, including Murad’s proposal for a “sub-state” instead of an independent Muslim homeland.

The MILF chairman presented the proposal to President Aquino during their August 4 meeting in Tokyo to speed up the peace process between the two sides.

When asked how Kato’s BIFF could affect stalled peace talks that are set to resume in Kuala Lumpur on August 22, Lacierda said that this will be tackled by the government and MILF panels.

“We confer officially with the other side of the peace panel. Insofar as having received any official communication from the MILF as to the status of Mr. Umbra Kato, we (are) yet to receive an official communication,” he added.

“It means that we will not deal [with or] get information through media. We will recognize that, or at least the peace panel will not recognize that, until it receives official communication from the MILF and the (government) peace panel. We would like to get confirmation from (the panels) as to the official status of Umbra Kato, notwithstanding his [Kato’s] unilateral statement (that he was not buying the sub-state proposal),” Lacierda said.

The government, the Palace spokesman added, will ask the MILF to clarify reports on Kato’s group being a splinter one and its implications where national security is concerned.

“We will certainly raise the issue and we will wait for their response to clarify what has been coming out in the media,” Lacierda said.

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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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