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Friday, April 08, 2005

A Mockery

In some blunt words, Ioannis Gatsiounis hammers the not too successsful efforts of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to quell piracy in the Strait of Malacca:
Pirates are making a mockery of the half-hearted efforts of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to make the Malacca Strait safe for shipping.

When the three littoral states launched a plan last July to coordinate patrols of the strait, they were determined to make two points. One, the waterway through which a third of the world's trade and half its oil passes was not vulnerable to terrorist and pirate attacks. And two, the littoral states themselves were up to the task of securing the strait and assistance by foreign militaries was unnecessary.

But four brazen pirate attacks in the strait in the past month alone have put paid to the littoral states' pretensions.

One saw 35 armed pirates hijack a gas tanker, something that it has long been feared might be converted by terrorists into a floating bomb and spearheaded into a port, severely disrupting world trade. Another attack saw three crewmen of a Japanese tugboat kidnapped, marking an incident in which a non-littoral state became a victim of a pirate attack...
Those two states are betting that better coordinating patrols will do the trick - such patrols, in Choong's words, being in essence a matter of "you control your waters, we control ours". But many observers have their doubts as to the effectiveness of this method.

Iskandar Sazlan of the IMB said the question is no longer whether the coordinated patrols are working - "clearly they're not" - but whether it is safe to sustain them. It is widely contended that the only way for coordinated patrols to be effective is if all parties involved are pulling their weight.

...Indonesia, even by its leadership's admittance, is not. Of 325 reported pirate attacks worldwide in 2004, 93 occurred in Indonesian waters (compared with nine in Malaysia and eight in Singapore). The country's defense capacity is spread thin, with the government trying to quell separatist movements in Aceh and maintain stability elsewhere across the sprawling archipelago...
Read the whole thing. The pirates may be enjoying their mockery, but ...

Update: Where governments fear to tread, private enterprise finds a market as reported here
A private security firm employing former members of elite military units has begun providing armed escorts to ships plying some of Asia's most pirate-infested waters, a media report said.

Singapore-based Background Asia Risk Solutions has its own armour-plated vessel that accompanies boats anywhere between Sri Lanka and the South China Sea for about 50,000 US dollars a mission, the Straits Times said.
Interesting question under international law what right to use armed force and pursuit rights such an enterprise might have, if any.

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