Kuala Lumpur – While pirate attacks in Southeast Asia have fallen to their lowest level in seven years from January to March this year, there has been a noticeable increase in armed violence, said the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Out of the 56 pirate attacks that took place around the world in the first three months of 2005, almost half took place in Southeast Asia, with 16 in Indonesian waters, the IMB said in its quarterly report released on May 6.
Many of the attacks involved violence and the use of weapons, ranging from heavy-duty M16 and AK47 rifles in the southern part of the Malacca Strait to small firearms and knives in the southern region.
IMB director, Captain P Mukundan, noted that there was a lull in piracy attacks after last December’s tsunami disaster, when there was a large international presence in the area as part of relief efforts.
“But now commerce has got back to normal in the tsunami-hit region, so has maritime crime, which may escalate in frequency and violence.
“It is too early to tell if this downward trend will be sustained. The recent arrests of a pirate group by Malaysian police are a deterrent and stepped-up patrols will help,” he added.
* S-E Asia piracy down but attacks more violent (The Straits Times, May 7)