20131121 Government receives ransom demand
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Government receives ransom demand

REAL REQUEST? Authorities could not be sure if the Philippine caller was really the kidnapper of Chang An-wei, while Malaysia dismissed criticism of the case

By Loa Iok-sin / Staff reporter, with CNA

Members of the families of Hsu Li-min and Chang An-wei depart from a hotel in Sabah for Pom Pom Island, Malaysia, yesterday.
Photo: CNA

Taiwan has received a call from the Philippines in which the caller asked for a ransom in connection with a Taiwanese woman abducted from the east Malaysian state of Sabah last week, Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) said yesterday.

“I don’t know whether it’s the kidnapper who made the call, but we know it’s from the Philippines talking about a ransom,” Lee said, adding that the government was informed as early as Sunday that Chang An-wei (張安薇) had been taken to the Philippines and that she was still alive.

However, Lee said it remained unclear which organization was responsible for the armed abduction of Chang on Friday last week on Pom Pom Island off the east coast of Sabah, which also resulted in the death of Chang’s male companion, Hsu Li-min (許立民).

Two Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) officers and a prosecutor are in Malaysia to take part in the investigation of the case.

Lee said some detailed information still needs to be kept confidential as the CIB investigates the case, saying that the bureau would reveal appropriate information to the public at the appropriate time, and urging the media “not to spread premature information to avoid bringing trouble to everyone.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs previously said that based on bullet shells left at the scene and other evidence, Malaysian police suspect that the shooting and abduction were carried out by Philippine terrorists.

Asked about the latest situation yesterday, Criminal Investigation Bureau Commissioner Lin Teh-hua (林德華) remained tight-lipped and would not disclose any more details for the sake of Chang’s safety.

Malaysian authorities were scheduled to perform an autopsy on Hsu’s body at a hospital in Tawau, a coastal town in eastern Sabah, yesterday to determine the cause of his death.

Family members of Hsu and Chang, who arrived in Sabah a day earlier, went to the hospital to obtain Hsu’s death certificate yesterday morning.

They planned to go to Pom Pom in the afternoon to collect the couple’s belongings.

The abducted woman’s brother, Chang Ta-kung (張大公), said his sister suffers from diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and that he hopes that she will be given the necessary medicine.

In related developments, Malaysian Minister of Defense Hishammuddin Hussein has said he does not see a need to apologize over the armed abduction.

Media reports in Taiwan and Malaysia have centered on Hishammuddin’s alleged casual dismissal of the case when he said: “Kidnappings occur everywhere.”

The statement sparked anger in Taiwan when it was reported, leading to calls for an apology over the remarks.

When asked about the issue on Monday, Hishammuddin said there was “nothing to apologize” for, Malaysia’s Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily reported.

The minister also rejected criticism that the incident happened because of weak enforcement on the part of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM).

He said the command is meant to deal with “bigger security threats,” such as invasion by Sulu militants from the southern Philippines.

ESSCOM was set up in the wake of a Sulu incursion into Lahad Datu in eastern Sabah, which happened in February.

He said that the Eastern Sabah Security Zone covers a broad area facing many threats and law enforcement needs the “eyes and ears” of the public to help with the policing.

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