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ASEAN: Boost for anti-piracy measures

Updated On: Sep 22, 2008

ReCAAP is the first region-wide, governmental-level attempt to tackle piracy in Asia. It was initiated by former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2001, and an agreement was signed in November 2004.  The initial arrangements provided for the center to have access to US$1.4 million to collect data on piracy attacks and make the information immediately available on a secure network, thus increasing the efficiency of governmental responses.

Representatives from Malaysia and Indonesia were conspicuously absent from the early ReCAAP meetings, and neither government ratified it. This raised understandable concerns about the effectiveness of the multinational network. Officials in both countries expressed doubts about the planned operational procedures of the center, and Malaysia had an institutional conflict of interest with the new center since Kuala Lumpur is home to the International Chamber of Commerce International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center in Asia.

Gradually, however, Indonesia and Malaysia became supportive of the Japan-initiated multilateral program to increase cooperation in combating piracy, which allowed the pact to come into effect in September 2006. This agreement was designed to improve operational cooperation between states and was the first regional government-to-government pact for cooperation against piracy and armed robbery at sea in Asia.

ReCAAP’s most important provision was the plan to set up an Information Sharing Centre (ISC) in Singapore in order to facilitate international cooperation in the suppression of piracy. This center was designed to enhance communication and information exchange among member countries. It was also expected to improve the quality of data on incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region. The ISC was formally inaugurated in November 2006.

ReCAAP, however, has also faced its own share of criticisms. Its weakness, critics charge, is that it only obligates governments to share information which they deem pertinent to immediate pirate attacks, and that center’s operation will thus depend on voluntary contributions. Even though ReCAAP may be a significant development, it will not be enough to completely eradicate piracy in Southeast Asia. Looking beyond ReCAAP, the stakeholder states will probably require more far-reaching arrangements, including joint or coordinated patrols and the right of so-called “hot pursuit” into the territorial waters of a neighboring country.  Those with a stake in the safety of the Straits of Malacca must also address the issue of technical cooperation, which remains an important yet much-neglected issue. For example, the aids to navigation within Indonesian waters are reportedly unreliable. They are said to be either missing, unlit, or out of position.

Giving a boost to such anti-piracy measures, Thailand has become the fourth country to join in the patrol in the Straits of Malacca, according to the Singapore Defence Ministry. Its participation in the patrol was formalised when it signed the revised Standard Operating Procedures and Terms of Reference for the Malacca Straits Patrols (MSP) Joint Coordinating Committee at a ceremony in Bangkok. The ceremony was witnessed by the armed forces chiefs of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in Bangkok

Sources:

Bernama, "Thailand Joins In The Patrol Of Malacca Straits" dated 18 September 2008 in the Bernama website [downloaded on 18 September 2008], available athttp://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsgeneral.php?id=360022







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