Jakarta – The three littoral nations, aware of the fact that they do not have enough hardware to police the 600-km long Malacca Strait, has invited fellow Asean member, Thailand, to take part in the joint patrols of the busy international shipping lane.
The issue of Thai participation will be officially discussed at a meeting of high-ranking military officials from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in Batam later this month, said Malaysian Navy Chief of Staff, Admiral Ilyas Din on Aug 8.
"During the recent meeting (of military chiefs) in Kuala Lumpur, there were new initiatives that we have reached, including the invitation for Thailand to guard the northern side of the Strait of Malacca," said Adm Ilyas, who was on an official visit to Indonesia.
"We have also set up a working group to explore in detail the concept of an 'eye in the sky' that my country had proposed ... and I guess these are considered as new initiatives that we have concluded in the recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur," Adm Ilyas added.
The "eye in the sky" is a security concept that emphasises aerial surveillance of the territory of the three countries. Under the concept, Malaysia said security personnel of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand will fly aboard an aircraft to monitor security along the Malacca Strait.
Adm Ilyas said aerial surveillance is necessary because an aircraft could mobilise faster than a patrol boat to tackle threats and hunt down criminals in the strait.
At another meeting in Batam last week, the foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, agreed during their meeting in Batam to welcome "any cooperation with Asean countries and the strait's users in a bid to improve security and safety along the maritime territory".
Countries such as the United States, Japan and China have expressed interest in helping to provide security along the strait, which links the Indian Ocean with theSouth China Sea. The waterway is used by more than 50,000 commercial ships each year, carrying more than one-third of the world's shipping trade and half of the world's crude oil shipments.
* Thailand may join Malacca Strait patrols (The Jakarta Post, Aug 9)