Now that the vest-pocket war between the military Malaysian in its eastern province of Sabah and a rebel group loyal to the Philippine islands’ defunct Sultanate of Sulu has largely died down, the Republic of the Philippines is beginning to grapple with the resurgent sultanate’s implications for its southern Moro insurgency.
On August 2nd, a spokesmen for the unrecognized Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo announced that the Sulu archipelago, a small, predominantly-Muslim island group in the southern Philippines, cannot be part of the new autonomous region to be called Bangsamoro which the Philippine government has been negotiating into being with Muslim Moro rebels.
|The royal spokesman|
Attempts to hammer out the details of the creation of the region were complicated in March of this year by the sudden invasion (reported on at the time in this blog) of nearby Malaysia’s Sabah province by a ragtag army of several hundred men loyal to Jamalul Kiram III, one claimant to the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu, which, on paper at least, ceded its territory to United States sovereignty in 1898. That, however, apparently does not include the sultanate’s non-Philippine territories, namely Sabah, on the island of Borneo. Suluans never saw an 1851 treaty with the Spanish Empire as a cession, and thus they believe that Spain’s transfer of Sabah to the British Empire in 1885 was invalid. Moro activists had long clamored for successive Philippine governments to press their claims against Malaysia and try to take back Sabah. At first, it was not clear if Sultan Kiram wanted Sabah for himself or was merely trying to prod Manila to taking a stronger irredentist stand (which is quixotic, since Manila and Kuala Lumpur have become solid partners in the post-Marcos era). But then the sultanate allied itself with the radical M.N.L.F., who regard the MILF’s Bangsamoro plan as a shoddy compromise on independence.
|The current Sultan of Sulu|
|The MILF is more moderate, but it uses the same flag.|
[You can read more about the Sultanate of Sulu, Bangsomoro, and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]