Bangkok - The "eyes in the sky" plan, aimed at keeping pirates in the Malacca Strait at bay, has found another supporter: Thailand. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced on Sept 3 that Thailand had signed a regional agreement on combating piracy and might take part in joint air patrols over the busy sealane.
"Thailand supports the initiative on the 'eyes in the sky' and we will consider to contribute to the security of the region," Mr Thaksin said after talks with visitingSingapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon had earlier signed the regional cooperation agreement on anti-piracy (RECAAP) on the government's behalf.
Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore - the three littoral nations of the Malacca Strait - agreed last month to boost surveillance of the sealane with joint air patrols. The three countries have already begun coordinated sea patrols in the strait.
Prime Minister Lee said: "A problem like the Malacca Strait is not just a problem for the countries which are right there on the border. If there is a terrorist incident in the Strait of Malacca, the whole region will be affected."
Thailand is not a littoral state of the waterway, but as it is situated on the Malacca Strait's northern approaches, it could become involved in protecting the area, Mr Lee added.
"There may be opportunities for us to work together with Thailand to intensify some activities and patrols so as to have a deterrent effect and a confidence-building effect,'' he said.
Mr Kantathi said the specific details of Thailand's involvement and the level of cooperation with the three littoral nations are still to be worked out.
"The principle is that we want to help ensure that the Strait of Malacca is safe, secure," he said.
In another development, the Indonesian Navy said it would install radars along the Malacca Strait.
"The Indonesian Navy has decided to install radars at nine points along the Malacca Strait to strengthen security in the air over the region," the Indonesian Navy Headquarters' spokesman, Commodore Abdul Malik Yusuf, said on Sept 3.
The nine points would also serve as the closest security posts to which ship captains could report their situation when they meet with an accident or become a victim of piracy.
"Thus, every incident befalling passing ships can be reported and be acted on as soon as possible," Commodore Yusuf added.
* Thai backs 'eyes in the sky' over strait (The Straits Times, Sept 4)
* Singapore accepts joint visa deal (Bangkok Post, Sept 4)
* RI Navy to install radars along Malacca Strait (Antara, Sept 3)