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Monday, September 19, 2005

Australia to join Malacca anti-piracy air patrols?

The Strait of Malacca may see another force in the new air war against piracy as reported here if the RAAF is allowed to join the effort. Interesting comments which do not serve to tone down the threat or the piracy-terrorist link:
Jemaah Islamiah, the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have all been linked to piracy attacks in the area.

A spokesman for Defence Minister Robert Hill was unable to clarify if Australia had made or received any formal offer to join the air patrols.

But Senator Hill indicated last month that he was pushing for closer regional surveillance and intelligence-sharing in the Malacca Strait. In a major departure from attitudes a year ago, the three Asian nations with jurisdiction over the Malacca Strait indicated last week that they would consider any foreign offers to help secure the vital waterway from piracy and maritime terrorism.

Malaysian and Indonesian leaders last year flatly rejected a similar offer by the US to monitor and patrol the area.

Australia is supporting Malaysia's bid to join the UN's International Maritime Organisation, which is responsible for overseeing global merchant shipping.

Piracy survivors have reported that highly organised and violent criminal gangs with corporate structures have operated with impunity in the Malacca Strait, hijacking ships, stealing valuable cargoes, and killing crews or demanding ransoms.

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