Friday, April 18, 2008

Malaccan Strait piracy eliminated in 2007?

Earlier this week, the deputy chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Lt-Gen Bashir Abu Bakar, said that the Strait of Malacca was pirate-free last year. According to the general, joint efforts by Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to patrol the Strait with maritime elements and aircraft has been effective in a dramatic decline in pirate incidents in those waters.

"From January to late December 2007, we recorded zero percent pirate attacks in the Malacca Straits and also recorded a reduction in pirate attacks in the waterways of Sabah and Sarawak (on Borneo Island)," he told Bernama. "Maritime and air patrols carried out with Indonesia and Singapore through the 'Eyes in the Sky' programme introduced two years ago have worked in reducing acts of violence and robbery in the straits," he added.

However, I would caution that even the IMB's office in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur recorded two pirate incidents in the Strait last year, so one can not really say 'zero'. And, it should be noted, not all attacks - actual or attempted - are reported.

As well, my own research last year along the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia revealed a striking number of attacks on fishing villages, with the thefts of boats and motors and intimidation of local fishermen being rampant. While these do not garner the attention that comes from attacks on commercial vessels, they still constitute a security issue in the region that has yet to be fully addressed. One can hope that having effectively dealt with pirate assaults on merchant vessels, the authorities will now turn their attention to the remaining criminal elements operating throughout the Strait.

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