KL: No ransom paid for release of Malaysian hostage

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - Examiner) (Mindanao

COTABATO CITY – Kuala Lumpur has strongly denied that ransom was paid for the safe release of a kidnapped Malaysian woman, saying, her freedom was the result of a successful negotiation between Malaysian authorities and her captors.

The 50-year old Thien Nyuk Fun, manager of Ocean King Restaurant in Sandakan town in Sabah, was freed by the Abu Sayyaf on November 8 in Indanan town in the southern Filipino province of Sulu after 6 months in captivity.

Thien was kidnapped along with another Malaysian Bernard Then, 39, who remains in the hands of the rebel group after Abu Sayyaf gunmen raided the restaurant and spirited their victims to Tawi- Tawi province and eventually in Sulu

Malaysia’s news website The Star Online also quoted Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that Thien was released following negotiations between the Malaysian authorities and her captors. He said the close collaboration between the Malaysian and Philippine authorities led to her release.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Malaysia’s Home Minister, said the “close collaboration between the Malaysian and Philippine authorities led to her release.”

“The kidnap of one victim is settled, but we have another victim who has not been released. Negotiations will continue to be carried out to secure his release. We believe if the captors are generous to not impose strict conditions, then the other victim will be released soon,” he said.

The release of Thien came six weeks later after Abu Sayyaf rebels threatened to kill one of the hostages if their demand for ransom is not paid. The Abu Sayyaf had. earlier demanded P30 million pesos for the safe release of the Malaysian.

Sulu provincial officials have also repeatedly said that the Philippine government has a strict no-ransom policy. "The government has a strict no-ransom policy," said Vice Governor Sakur Tan, who was even quoted in unconfirmed media reports as having participated in the negotiations.

Tan branded the reports as "black propaganda."

Filipino troops continue it operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, but it was unknown why the release of Thien was undetected by the military or police in the province. Just late in August, troops clashed with about 300 rebels in Patikul town during a failed rescue mission that left over a dozen soldiers and rebels wounded.

The rebels, led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Muammar Askali, Almuktar Suddung, Namiel Ahajari, and Basaron Arok, managed to escape a huge military assault. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreign hostages, including two Canadians, a Norwegian, an Italian and Filipinos kidnapped from other places and brought to Sulu’s jungle.

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