The Malaysian government is contemplating suspending trade and movements of essential goods from east coast of Sabah to southern Philippines, after four Malaysians were kidnapped by gunmen off the coast of Semporna, in a second tugboat incident within a week.
The Sabah police have identified the four Malaysians as brothers Wong Teck Kang and Wong Teck Suu, Johny Lau Jung Hien and Wong Hung Sing. Aged between 21 and 34, they were heading to Tawau to pick up supplies after delivering logs to Manila. However, their tugboat was intercepted by masked gunmen near Ligitan Island just before the nightly curfew, which starts at 7pm.
They were taken away in a speed boat into Filipino waters. According to the other crew members from Myanmar and Indonesia who were released, the eight gunmen were heard speaking in Tagalog and English. No ransom demand has been made the authorities.
The incident came after almost a year lull since the kidnapping of restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun and electrical engineer Bernard Then last May. Ms Thien was released last November after ransom was paid, but Mr Then was beheaded after negotiation fell through with Abu Sayyaf gunmen.
Despite the heightened security along the east coast of Sabah with a dusk to dawn curfew, the kidnap for ransom activities continues.