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Indonesian soldiers returning the victims’ pickup truck on Dec 14.

BUKIT KAYU HITAM: Jakarta has given an assurance that its soldiers will not repeat the Dec 11 incident, in which five Malaysians were held hostage by the Indonesian army after being accused of stealing wood near the Sarawak-Kalimantan border.

Indonesia has informed Wisma Putra that its soldiers were wrong, and it acknowledged Malaysia’s protest note on the incursion involving two Tentera Nasional Indonesia (TNI) personnel on Malaysian territory.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya said the Malaysian government appreciated Indonesia’s positive response to Malaysia’s protest against the alleged kidnapping.

He said Jakarta would make an effort to prevent a recurrence of the incident as it was a violation of Malaysia’s sovereignty.

Datuk Marzuki Yahya

“We (Malaysian government) have taken strict action against what happened as we sent the protest note on the matter.

“Indonesia has admitted their mistake and they welcomed our reminder to ensure that it will not happen again,” Marzuki said after a dialogue at Institut Pemikiran Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at Universiti Utara Malaysia in Sintok near here yesterday.

Malaysia had sent a protest note last Friday, which was forwarded through the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia described the incident as an “encroachment, unlawful detention and abuse of Malaysian citizens” while condemning it in the strongest terms.

The New Sunday Times front-paged an exclusive report yesterday about five Malaysians from Sarawak, who were held at gunpoint and bundled into their pickup, allegedly by two Indonesian soldiers who had encroached on Malaysian territory.

They were ordered to drive across the border and a ransom was demanded for their release.

The five, aged between 15 and 64, were harvesting wood at the Wong Rangkai forest near Kampung Danau Melikin, 400m from the Serian-Kalimantan border, when they were approached by two men in military fatigues.

They were armed with 5.56mm Pindad SS-1 assault rifles, the standard weapon of Tentera Nasional Indonesia.

The five were allegedly ambushed at the site, located near the WFM Melikin oil palm estate in Balai Ringin.

After capturing the victims, the Indonesians forced them into their vehicle nearby, and ordered them to drive across the Kalimantan border to the Indonesian command post in Sungai Enteli.

Throughout the journey, the soldiers had allegedly roughed up the five Malaysians and threatened to shoot them. At one point, one soldier fired off two rounds from his rifle to scare the victims.

At the base, the Malaysians were forced to admit stealing wood in the Indonesian side and ordered to strip. Their heads were covered with black hoods.

The NST saw the victims’ police report, which alleged that the Indonesian soldiers had whipped them on their backs and legs, besides punching them.

In Kuala Lumpur, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said Malaysian-Indonesian military cooperation would not be jeopardised by the incident.

“The incident does not have any effect on our (Malaysian-Indonesian) relationship. Our relationship with Indonesia is close. All problems can be resolved at the negotiating table.

“Bilateral relations, especially on military (cooperation), is good. No major disputes have arisen from this incident,” he said after the Ex-Servicemen Affairs Corporation (Perhebat) 52nd convocation here yesterday.

Netizens responded with concern and pointed out that this was the second border incident for Malaysia recently.

Facebook user Abah Zahra Samsudin said encroachments on Malaysian territory could signal a lack of cooperation among Asean nations.

“I thought Asean nations were united, but that is not the case. We saw what happened with the (airspace) issue with Singapore. Now it is with Indonesia.

Another user, Adrian Yeo, claimed that encroachments and abductions carried out by foreigners on Malaysian territory were nothing new.

“This is not the first time. They do it to fishermen as well,” he wrote.

Zainuddin Omar, however, expressed confidence that Indonesia would act against those guilty of abducting the Malaysians.

Malaysian soldiers and police, together with the five villagers, visiting the scene where the villagers were allegedly detained near Kampung Danau Melikin in Sarawak.

He said the incident had spurred heated exchanges.

“Wah, so many keyboard warriors here itching for a fight with our neighbours. Can’t you see those are rogue elements of Tentera Nasional Indonesia?

“ I am sure they will be punished by their superiors after Malaysia sent its protest note,” he said.

Vincent Chin reminded Netizens about the challenges faced by security forces in patrolling the long Sarawak-Kalimantan border.

“Terribly disappointed to read the few ignorant peninsula citizens who think the Kalimantan border is so easy to patrol like the New Klang Valley Expressway, and they keep demeaning our (security) forces and calling names.

“Criminal and armed resolutions such as these are usually not resolved within a Hollywood movie screening time,” he wrote.

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