Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said he had voiced the proposal many times before and believed it to be an effective way to increase security in the east coast of Sabah. NSTP/EDMUND SAMUNTING.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government wants an army camp, with a fighting strength of a battalion, to be set up in Lahad Datu to help curb kidnapping cases in the area.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said he had voiced the proposal many times before and believed it to be an effective way to increase security in the east coast of Sabah.

He said the state government has no problem in preparing a site to build the army camp as there were many suitable locations.

"We understand the financial limitations but people's lives must be taken into consideration.

"I will raise the matter again in parliament as it is a very important issue,” said the Semporna member of parliament after launching the Sabah World Rivers Day International Conference and Exhibition 2019 here.

Present were State Agriculture and Food Industry Minister Datuk Junz Wong and Sabah Irrigation and Drainage Department director Datuk Yahiya Awang Kahar.

Shafie was commenting on the latest kidnapping incident involving three Indonesian fishermen off Tambisan waters in Lahad Datu yesterday.

Currently, he said there are soldiers in the area but only a small number.

He said the proposal for a battalion would instil a sense of deterrence against crimes and also help ensure that tourism industry in Lahad Datu was not jeopardised.

Previously, Shafie had proposed the Lok Kawi base camp here to be shifted to the east coast of Sabah as the area needed more security.

Meanwhile, Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said the suspects were part of a kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) group.

He said his team has been communicating with their Philippines counterparts to get for more information on the group's movement.

“This is the first time such an incident occurred in daytime and investigations are ongoing,” he told Berita Harian.

In the 11.50am incident yesterday, the three victims; Maharudi Lunani, 48, Muhammad Farhan, 27, and Samiun Maneu, 27 were out fishing for prawns when they were kidnapped by seven armed men off the Tambisan waters.

They were believed to have been taken to the Tawi Tawi island in Southern Philippines.