Malaysia's terms of engagement for foreign planes in Malacca Strait

Updated On: Jun 24, 2005

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia, long cool to the idea of an international role in the piracy-prone Malacca Strait, has suggested that it is willing to accept the presence of foreign surveillance planes in the busy waterway.  

    In an interview with Reuters news agency, Defence Minister Najib Abdul Razak said Malaysia would consider allowing maritime aircraft from countries such as the United StatesJapan and Australia to use its domestic airspace.
    "It's to be managed as an international effort by the international community," Mr Najib said.  "Perhaps the international community can provide maritime aircraft for 24-hour surveillance over the Strait of Malacca. They can fly these aircraft but the consoles and monitors inside them can be operated by nationals from the three littoral states, MalaysiaIndonesia and Singapore."
    Mr Najib added that a central communications post could be set up to receive information from the foreign surveillance aircraft. This post can relay data to naval and maritime boats being used by the three littoral states to patrol their waters. 
   The rise in piracy attacks in the strait has prompted the United States and Japan to offer help. However, Malaysia and Indonesia have resisted suggestions that foreign forces could operate within their territories, citing sovereignty as their paramount concern. 
    In another development, Thailand says that it has given Singapore its backing to become the regional hub for combating piracy in the Malacca Strait. The centre will focus on training and international information gathering and exchange. 
    The issue was raised during a meeting between Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamong-khon and his Singaporean counterpart George Yeo in Singapore on June 22. 

* KL open to use of foreign planes to fight piracy (The Straits Times, June 22)

* Singapore backed as a centre against piracy (Bangkok Post, June 23)