Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have signed an agreement to strengthen cooperation in the security of the Strait of Malacca.
Indonesian Military chief Air Marshal Djoko Suyanto, Malaysian Armed Forces commander Adm. Tan Sri Dato'Sri Mohd Anwar and Singapore chief of defense Lt. Gen. Ng Yat Chung signed the terms of reference and standard operating procedures aimed at coordinating anti-piracy patrols in the straits through joint maritime and air patrol as well as an exchange of intelligence information.
“This is an historical and strategic policy with regards to the security of the Straits of Malacca,” said Adm. Tan Sri Dato. Lt. Gen Ng added that “We are very enthusiastic about such cooperation. We also consider that the safeguarding of the strait is open to participation from user countries and the international world.”
The Straits of Malacca is extremely vital for the world economy, with approximately 50,000 ships cruising through each year and the shipping of more than 10 million barriers of crude oil each day.
This Malacca Strait Patrols (MSP) agreement links the Malsindo Malacca Strait Coordinated Patrol by warships, which began in July 2004 with the `Eyes in the Skies' aerial surveillance flights which started in September last year. Since the coordinated patrols started, the numbers of piracy fell by more than two thirds. There were only two reported cases this year down from an average of 30.
The roles and conduct of the agreement will be further defined by the operation units. At the moment, it's a bilateral approach towards hot pursuit. There are currently two hot pursuit arrangements, one between Indonesia and Singapore and the other between Indonesia and Malaysia. However, the countries agreed that the three countries can make adjustment based on urgency and the nature of the hot pursuit.
An invitation has been sent to Thailand whose engagement is a crucial component in the joint patrols. The Thai have agreed to join the scheme after its new government is formed. “Thailand's participation in the coordinated patrols in the Malacca Strait must be approved by the cabinet, while a new cabinet will only be set up in June. Maybe two or three months after that we can join…Thailand will stick to its plan to join the coordinated patrol scheme on the Malacca Strait, along with the three littoral states,” said Col Surasit, Director of Strategy and Policy of the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
The US has agreed to provide Indonesia with an early warning system to support the security maintenance. Indonesian military chief Suyanto had later underlined that the involvement of other countries should be limited to the provision of equipment. “Any intention of other countries to safeguard security in the strait has to be discussed jointly…not by an individual country,” he said. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have also stressed that international participation in securing the waterway would still be based on the sovereignty of the three countries along the strait.
S'pore, KL, Jakarta sign anti-piracy pact (Straits Times, 22 April 2006)
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia Sign pact on Malacca Strait patrols (Channel News Asia, 21 April 2006)
Military chiefs sign key pact on Strait of Malacca (Jakarta Post, 22 April 2006)
Thailand delays Strait security plan (Bangkok Post, 22 April 2006)
US offers early warning system to secure Malacca Straits (Xinhua, 22 April 2006)