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Target Malacca Straits: Maritime Terrorism in Southeast Asia

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 30 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2007 Pages: 541-561
Yun Yun Teo
Date Published
June 2007
21 pages
This article conducts a threat assessment of the vulnerability of the Straits of Malacca to maritime terrorism in Southeast Asia.
The strategic and economic importance of the Straits of Malacca makes it one of the world's major sea routes most vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Although no such attack has yet occurred, the international community has been alarmed by reports of pirates in the Straits hijacking ships just to learn how to steer or kidnapping crews to obtain diving instructions. The international community is pressuring the countries bordering the Straits (Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia) to strengthen security and control the piracy problem. These states have combated the piracy problem through various bilateral initiatives and by working within multilateral forums and organizations. Although this has led to a reduction of maritime attacks, fundamental challenges remain. The three countries hold different views on the relationship between piracy and maritime terrorism. Although Singapore is not discounting a link between piracy and terrorism, Malaysia and Indonesia are reluctant to believe that piracy can lead to or be exploited by terrorists in executing a major attack with significant international impact. These divergent views have limited the scope of cooperation among the three countries. A useful example of how countries with different operational policies and technical capabilities can work together to maintain security at sea is the maritime interdiction effort in the Persian Gulf by the navies from the United States, Greece, and Italy. Another good example is the cooperation between the U.S. Coast Guard and British Navy in the Caribbean, where the two powers have worked together since 1993 in countering drug smuggling. 91 notes