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Littoral states beef up naval presence in Malacca Strait

Updated On: Apr 29, 2005

Jakarta - Amid reports that some foreign powers are eager to help police the pirate-infested Malacca Strait, the three littoral states of SingaporeIndonesia andMalaysia have stepped up efforts to protect the busy waterway. 

    Singapore and Indonesia announced on April 26 that they would step up efforts to protect the strait through coordinated joint patrols. Following a one-day meeting between defence officials from both countries, Indonesian military spokesman, Colonel Ahmad Yani Basuki, said: “We are committed to continue the coordinated joint patrols that we had conducted last year.”  
    He noted that the joint patrols, which began last year, had had an impact, as reflected by the drop in the number of pirate attacks. “This has been the result of better cooperation and the exchange of information between our naval forces,” Col Basuki said.  
    The two sides also agreed to step up military cooperation in the field of training, logistics and the exchange of intelligence. 
    In a separate development, Malaysia announced the creation of a maritime agency that will begin patrolling the Malacca Strait in June to curb piracy and the threat of terrorism. 
    The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) will start monitoring the strait and other territorial waters with six patrol boats and crew drawn from the Malaysian Navy. The latter and other agencies would assist the MMEA until it gets its own helicopters and speedboats. The agency would need at least 39 vessels to patrol Malaysia’s coastline. 
    “We reckon it will take up to five years for the MMEA to be effective on its own, but its presence is important to maintain the country's status as a safe maritime trading nation, free of threats from pirates and terrorists, and to deter smuggling, human trafficking, environmental pollution, illegal fishing, and also to help in search and rescue,” said Navy chief Admiral Mohammad Anwar Mohamad Nor on April 26.  
    As pirates continue to stalk for lucrative prey in the Malacca Strait, the US and Japan have repeatedly expressed their desire to have their own naval patrols to protect ships passing through the area. However, Malaysia and Indonesia are strongly opposed to intervention by foreign forces in the region.

* Jakarta and S’pore to continue joint patrols of Malacca Strait (The Straits Times, April 28)

* Coast guard to begin patrols in June (New Straits Times, April 27)