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The funny thing about Indonesian pirates

JIMIN LAI/AFP/Getty Images Mike Nizza reports that sea piracy is on the rise again after a brief dip in attacks. Piracy is especially a growing problem off the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria. Here’s one thing Nizza misses, however, in citing an otherwise-interesting piece in National Geographic: The National Geographic article recognizes the sea-crime decline ...

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JIMIN LAI/AFP/Getty Images

Mike Nizza reports that sea piracy is on the rise again after a brief dip in attacks. Piracy is especially a growing problem off the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria. Here’s one thing Nizza misses, however, in citing an otherwise-interesting piece in National Geographic:

The National Geographic article recognizes the sea-crime decline in the Straits of Malacca, but then says “it is unclear how long the cash-strapped Indonesian navy will maintain its current level of vigilance.” Not to mention that navies are built and trained mainly for war, not for policing shipping channels.

We’re not exactly talking about a blue-water navy here. Think dinghies, not destroyers. In any case, keeping shipping channels safe and open is definitely within the purview of sovereign navies. Remember Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary pirates?

As for the formerly pirate-infested Straits of Malacca, part of the problem was that the Indonesian navy was likely complicit in many of the pirate attacks in the first place. As an article in Strategic Comment, the journal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, put it in 2004, “anecdotal evidence suggested that elements of these same under-funded security forces (the Indonesian Navy and Marine Police) might also at times have been complicit in maritime crime.” That’s carefully hedged, but it’s worth noting that when Indonesia decided to professionalize its navy, the problem declined dramatically—in part because naval personnel no longer needed to depend on piracy to earn a living.

More here in a first-person account by Indonesian journalist Andreas Harsono. 

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