Malaysian returning from North Korea arrive home

Mar 31, 2017
Anifah (third from right) walks with the nine Malaysian citizens who were previously stranded in Pyongyang as they return home, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia on March 31, 2017. Photo by Reuters

The nine Malaysians who were barred from leaving North Korea in the aftermath of the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam last month, have safely arrived home.

The nine are Malaysian Embassy staff and their families, namely Noor Saaidah Jamaludin, 29, (Ambassador’s secretary), her husband Mohd Radzuan Othman, 29, their eight-month-old son Mohamad Radhiy; S. Nirmala Malar, 45, (Administrative Officer); Mohd Nor Azrin Md Zain, 37, (Counselor), his wife Iza Karmila Ramli,
35, and their three children, Annur Zulaikha, six, Aynur Zhafirah, five, and Ayscha Zinnirah, three.

All of them left Pyongyang on a Royal Malaysian Air Force jet at 7.45pm (Malaysian time) yesterday and arrived Kuala Lumpur at 5.03am today.

They were welcomed by their respective family members.

Also on hand to welcome them were Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

Prime Minister Najib Razak in a statement last night announced that the nine were allowed by the North Korean government to return to Malaysia.

Najib, in a posting on Twitter earlier, said: “Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) the Special Aircraft carrying the nine Malaysians has flown out of North Korean airspace. The diplomatic crisis is over.”

Following the development, the prime minister said Malaysia had now allowed North Korean citizens in the country to leave.

Tensions between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang arose following the murder of Jong-nam, 46, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) here on Feb 13.

Two foreign women daubed the face of Jong-nam with the nerve agent VX at klia2 while he was waiting for a flight to Macau.

Subsequently, Jong-nam was pronounced dead while on the way to the Putrajaya Hospital.

On March 1, two women, Siti Aisyah, 25, an Indonesian, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, were charged in the Sepang Magistrate’s Court in relation to the killing.

The diplomatic tiff came about after North Korea’s Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol made wild allegations against Malaysia on how it handled the case, resulting in Malaysia declaring him persona non grata.

He left Kuala Lumpur on March 6.

Pyongyang retaliated by expelling Malaysia’s Ambassador to North Korea.

On March 7, Pyongyang barred Malaysians in North Korea from leaving that country and Kuala Lumpur took the same action in a tit-for-tat move.

Mohd Nor Azrin (centre) is surrounded by members of the media as he greets his family members at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia on March 31, 2017. Photo by Reuters

Meanwhile, Mohd Nor Azrin said they were glad to be back before leaving the Bunga Raya Complex at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport with his wife Iza Karmila, children and four other Malaysians.

Mohd Nor Azrin was all smiles when reporters swarmed him and his three girls, Annur Zulaikha, Aynur Zhafirah, as well as Ayscha Zinnirah, for comments regarding their journey back home.

“I am very glad, very happy to be with our family members and loved ones. Once again I would like to thank the Malaysian government for putting so much effort to bring us back home,” he told reporters after an emotional homecoming at the complex today.

Mohd Nor Azrin also expressed his appreciation for the relevant parties involved in the negotiations as well as Asean embassies in Pyongyang for extending their help and support during the whole ordeal.

“We had all the support that we could get, especially from the Asean embassies, such as the Indonesian, Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian embassies in Pyongyang.

“We received moral support, logistics support, food supplies and medicine supplies from them,” he added.

Mohd Nor Azrin said they were not stuck in the embassy and were allowed to move around.

“We know the situation that was happening and we kept our spirits high,” he said.

Meanwhile, Izlinda Ramli, 39, who is Mohd Nor Azrin’s sister-in-law and his wife’s sister, said she and her family did not expect Iza Karmila and her family to be back home today.

Izlinda said she only knew about them coming home when Najib announced the matter on television last night.

Following which, she and her family left Taiping, Perak, at about 11pm yesterday, to be at the airport to welcome them home.

“Our family, especially our mother, never stopped praying for their safe return. Our mother often cried, but she calmed down abit when Iza Karmila informed that their life (in Pyongyang) was normal.

“We could communicate through the WhatsApp application, but I didn’t do that often so as not to disturb their emotions,” said Izlinda when met at the complex.

The housewife said Iza Karmila’s three chidren, who initially thought it was just another ‘balik kampung’ trip, were shocked when they were swarmed by the media upon arriving at KLIA.

“The first thing they (the children) said to me was that they did not want to go back to Pyongyang anymore,” she said.

Izlinda also expressed her gratitude to the government for putting so much efforts in bringing home the nine Malaysians.

Meanwhile, it was a moment of relief for Lieutenant Colonel Hasrizan Kamis when the aircraft, with nine stranded Malaysians in North Korea inside, which he was piloting was given the green light to depart from the Pyongyang International Airport.

He said the Royal Malaysia Air Force (RMAF) Bombardier Global Express aircraft was supposed to depart from the airport at 6.30pm Thursday Malaysian time, but postponed to 7.45pm (Malaysian time).

“The reason is not known, but since we were on foreign land, we just follow them,” he said.

Hasrizan said he and eight crew in the flight arrived at the Pyongyang International Airport at 5.30pm (Malaysian time Thursday) for the mission to bring home the nine Malaysian nationals.

Hasrizan and the crew, who were informed of the mission last Monday, were not in their RMAF uniform, but clad in normal flight crew uniform, to avoid problems with the authorities in North Korea.

On the return flight, he said, the aircraft stopped at the Fuzhou Changle International Airport in China for refueling before continuing its journey to Malaysia.

Such a mission is the second for Hasrizan. His first was bringing home Malaysians in Libya in 2011. –Bernama