Philippines

Philippine clan wars threaten truce with rebels

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MANILA, June 15 (Reuters) - Vicious clan wars in the southern Philippines are a major threat to a fragile two-year ceasefire between the government and Muslim separatist rebels, military officials and analysts said on Wednesday.

Major Dickson Hermoso, a member of the government's ceasefire panel, said soldiers and rebels were often dragged into family differences on the troubled southern island of Mindanao, turning clan feuds, known locally as "rido", into full-scale battles.

"Rido is undermining the gains of the ongoing talks between the government and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)," Hermoso told a forum on Philippine clan wars on Wednesday.

"More often than not, the origin of a firefight on conflict-affected areas in Mindanao is due to rido."

Malaysia has been brokering talks since March 2001 to end more than 36 years of separatist rebellion that has killed at least 120,000 people, stunted development on resource-rich Mindanao, and hurt the overall investment climate.

Informal meetings to narrow differences on the thorny issue of ancestral land for Muslims in the south are due to resume on June 21 in Kuala Lumpur.

Studies funded by the Asia Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development found there had been more than 1,200 clan feuds in Mindanao since the 1930s, killing nearly 5,000 people and displacing tens of thousands.

About 60 percent of the feuds, which often last for several generations, remain unresolved, adding to the perception of lawlessness and violence in the southern Philippines.

Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of Mindanao-based Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, said most of the feuds were caused by political and business rivalries or land disputes, but could be over something as petty as a rough game of basketball.

"There are other factors that affect ceasefire violations," said Lingga. "But unless we can do something on rido, it would have influence on the peace process."

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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