Oct 202014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/05/08BANDARSERIBEGAWAN131.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08BANDARSERIBEGAWAN131
2008-05-01 07:52
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan

VZCZCXRO2889
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBD #0131/01 1220752
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 010752Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4187
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 0145
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0118
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0533
RUSICWP/COMLOGWESTPAC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 000131

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SINGAPORE FOR DAO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/01/2018
TAGS: MARR PREL RP BX
SUBJECT: SULTAN SAYS BRUNEI WILL STAY IN PHILIPPINES IMT EVEN IF MALAYSIA WITHDRAWS

REF: A. MANILA 885 NOTAL
¶B. MANILA 1021 NOTAL
¶C. KUALA LUMPUR 336 NOTAL
¶D. POST SIPRNET SITE 4-28-08
¶E. 07 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 252 NOTAL

Classified By: Ambassador Emil M. Skodon for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY AND ACTION REQUEST: After a confused initial
Bruneian reaction to Malaysia’s announcement that it will
begin a phased withdrawal of its peacekeeping troops from the
International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao, the Sultan
of Brunei has reportedly decided that Royal Brunei Armed
Forces (RBAF) participation in the IMT will continue and may
even be expanded to make up for the departing Malaysians.
Final para of this cable contains a recommendation to
consider involving the RBAF IMT contingent in Cotabato City
with the forthcoming visit by the USNS Mercy, both to take
advantage of its contacts with the local Muslim population
and to help bolster Brunei’s intent to continue its IMT
mission. END SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) According to contacts in the Ministry of Defence
(MOD), Malaysia’s April 22 announcement that it would begin a
phased withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the IMT caught the
Government of Brunei (GOB) by surprise. The GOB had known
for some time that the Malaysians were considering such a
move but was not informed in advance of the announcement
itself, despite the fact that the RBAF contingent in the IMT
is under Malaysian command.

¶3. (C) The lack of advance warning led to a confused reaction
by the MOD. On April 24, the Borneo Bulletin daily quoted an
MOD spokesperson as saying “Brunei will probably pull its men
out of Mindanao if Malaysia does.” Privately,
operational-level RBAF officers said they also assumed this
would be the case. Their civilian leadership, however, had
other ideas. Deputy Minister of Defence Pehin Yasmin (de
facto head of the MOD, since the Sultan is titular Defence
Minister) was reportedly furious at the announcement by the
MOD spokesperson. He instructed that a retraction of the
spokesperson’s statement be issued. It was printed in the
Borneo Bulletin on April 25, albeit tucked away on a back
page.

¶4. (C) As reported ref D, Yasmin himself at first concluded
that the Malaysian announcement was just a ploy to put
political pressure on the Government of the Philippines to
conclude a peace deal soon with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF). According to the Chief of Mission of a western
Embassy who debriefed the Ambassador on his April 25 meeting
with Yasmin, the Deputy Minister said the Malaysians were
worried about opposition to such a deal within Philippines
political circles. Such opposition, they felt, was based
more on a desire to embarrass President Arroyo for domestic
political purposes than on the merits of any peace agreement.
By threatening to pull out of the IMT, Yasmin believed that
Kuala Lumpur was trying to make the point to Arroyo’s
opponents that the status quo was unsustainable and a peace
agreement should not be held hostage to their parochial
political interests. Yasmin reportedly said that the RBAF
IMT contingent could continue operating even if the
Malaysians did pull out. He also, however, ducked the
question about whether or not they actually would do so by
explaining to the Chief of Mission that things would never
get to that point, since Kuala Lumpur was only bluffing to
put pressure on Manila.

¶5. (C) Over the next few days the Bruneians apparently came
around to a different view than Yasmin’s original conclusion.
MOD contacts and Philippines Ambassador Benavidez began
saying privately that the Malaysians were serious about
pulling out, and Benavidez told Ambassador that her
government was asking the GOB to stay on even if Malaysia
withdrew. According to the UK High Commission here, on April
27 the visiting UK Chief of Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshall
Sir Jock Stirrup, raised the issue with Sultan Haji Hassanal
Bolkiah during his courtesy call on the Sultan. The Sultan’s
answer was unequivocal: the RBAF would stay on in the IMT
even if Malaysia withdrew, and even would consider building
up is contingent as a partial replacement for the departing
Malaysians. In response to a follow-up question, Sultan

BANDAR SER 00000131 002 OF 002

Bolkiah reportedly said that the GOB would even consider
taking over the IMT lead from Malaysia, although, given its
capacity constraints, it would much prefer that another
country assume this role.

¶6. (C) Comment: There is no such thing as a final decision
in Brunei. Supposedly “final” decisions by the Sultan have
been reversed by him or frustrated by his bureaucracy in the
past, and there is always the possibility that the same could
happen with respect to the IMT deployment. For now, however,
it appears that the GOB intent is to remain committed to the
IMT. The UK High Comm and we agree that the Sultan’s
decision reflects the GOB’s increasing confidence in the
RBAF’s ability to carry out peacekeeping missions, based on
the practical experience it has gained in Mindanao and the
effort it has made to upgrade its peacekeeping capabilities
through training opportunities such as the recently concluded
Shanti Doot multilateral PKO exercise in Bangladesh. End
Comment.

¶7. (C) Action Request: We note from Ref A that the USNS
Mercy plans to pay a port call in Cotabato City May 29 – June
¶14. That is where the bulk of the RBAF IMT contingent is
stationed. The Philippines Ambassador here says the
Bruneians have done an admirable job of building good
relations with Cotabato’s Muslim population via distribution
of Korans and other activities. Embassy recommends that we
consider inviting the Bruneian IMT contingent to become
involved in supporting the USNS Mercy visit, both to benefit
from its local contacts and to signal support for continued
RBAF participation in the IMT in the wake of the Malaysian
withdrawal announcement. If Embassy Manila agrees this is
feasible and desirable, we request instructions to approach
the GOB with an invitation to become involved in the Mercy
visit, and to provide it with a point of contact and
preliminary suggestions for how the GOB could coordinate such
support with Embassy Manila and the USNS Mercy. Please
advise.

Visit Embassy Bandar Seri Begawan’s classified web site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/bandarseribeg awan/
SKODON
SKODON

   

 

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