Welfare of M'sians in N. Korea will continue to be monitored: PM

VEENA BABULAL and TEOH PEI YING


KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave his assurance today that he will continue to oversee and issue updates on the situation of Malaysian citizens stranded in North Korea, even during his official state to India over the next few days.

“Of course, you know in the modern day, you don't have to be physically (present) here. I give instructions even when I'm on board the aircraft. (The authorities) know how to reach me anywhere, 24 hours I'm available. I have given necessary guidelines, directions – they know what to do,” said Najib, who begins his visit today.

He was responding to questions on how the country plans to secure the release of nine Malaysians stranded in North Korea due to the diplomatic spat between the two nations following the death of Kim Jong-nam, the exiled half-brother of Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

When pressed on when such a solution could be found, Najib instead urged anxious reporters to focus on the homecoming of the last three crew members of the Serudong 3, who were rescued after being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.

“Don’t worry – these guys (endured) eight months and one week in hell. We are concerned over (the nine Malaysians’) safety, but they lead normal lives (in North Korea)

“But these guys were physically, mentally and emotionally tortured for eight months. Can you imagine? And they were on the brink of being decapitated. They’ve gone through hell and then come back, so today is about the three of them,” he said.

Fandy Bakran, Mohammad Jumadil Rahim and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail were hosted by Najib over breakfast today after arriving from the Philippines.

They were among five members of the tugboat Serudong 3 who were abducted by the militant group Abu Sayyaf from the eastern waters of Sabah in July last year.

The trio was rescued at 11.20pm on Sunday in Panglima Estino, Sulu province – 26km from where the first two crew members were picked up by Philippines authorities three days earlier.