POTTENGAL MUKUNDAN: The recent trend of attacks in the Malacca Straits have been slightly different. You've had the vessels being taken over by pirates who are very well armed, who approach the vessel from many different directions at the same time, firing automatic weapons, and they've had rocket-propelled grenades on these pirate craft.
The purpose of this multi-vector attack is to intimidate the (inaudible) and force the vessel to stop or slow down. The pirates then board the vessel. They will steal whatever they can very quickly from the ship, but very importantly they abduct some of the crew members and they take them away from the ship and hold them to ransom.
PETER LLOYD: Is there any evidence that terrorists rather than pirates are planning attacks?
POTTENGAL MUKUNDAN: From the information that we have we think that these are pure criminal attacks. They are done by… they are done for financial gain. We have not seen the terrorist link, at least from the attacks that we have seen.
PETER LLOYD: Are you satisfied by the response of the three countries bordering the Straits – that's Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore?
POTTENGAL MUKUNDAN: Well, we would always, naturally, like to see a lot more done. One of the big weaknesses in the law enforcement practice there is the issue of hot pursuit.
We have pirates who cross over from the Indonesian side, attack vessels in the Malaysian part of the waterway, and when they are pursued by the Royal Malaysian vessels, they run across the territorial limits into Indonesia, knowing full well that the Malaysian law enforcement vessels cannot cross over the line. That's a problem which is actually being exploited by the pirates.
So what we would like to see is discussions going on between the three states and mechanisms coming out of those discussions which allow for the right of hot pursuit.
Singapore sees the potential terrorist connection:
But according to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong the region "remained under threat from terror attacks" who are eyeing the narrow Strait, through which about 50,000 ships pass each year. "The threat is real and urgent" Lee insists, speaking at an interview on Radio Singapore International, "We know that terrorists have been studying maritime targets across the region." [http://rsi.com.sg].(from the Jamestown Foundation Threat of Maritime Terrorism Persists in SE Asia)
Disruption of the sea route would have immediate economic and strategic repercussions, and far beyond Southeast Asia. The Malacca Strait is one of the world's most important stretches of water, the 50,000 ships that pass though it annually account for about one third of global trade, and half the world's oil. Singapore, along with Indonesia, has also inaugurated a new surveillance radar system at the beginning of June to upgrade security in the Singapore Strait, which is located between the city state and Indonesia's Riau archipelago. The strait links the Malacca Straits with the South China Sea.