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  • Writer's pictureShaun Robertson

Who Are ASEAN, And Can They Combat Piracy?

Piracy is making a comeback in South-East Asia, and it's not just a problem for the high seas. The region is a hub of international trade, so the rise of piracy is a concern for the world at large. But what is being done to stop these sea-bound thieves?

Enter the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Comprised of ten countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, ASEAN is a powerhouse of regional cooperation, working to improve development and security for all member states.

Ten countries make up the Association of South-East Asian States (ASEAN).

  1. Singapore,

  2. Malaysia,

  3. Indonesia,

  4. Thailand,

  5. Myanmar,

  6. Laos,

  7. Philippines,

  8. Bruni,

  9. Vietnam

  10. Cambodia

The Goal of ASEAN:

"To create a stable, prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN economic region in which there is a free flow of goods, services, investment and a freer flow of capital, equitable economic development and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities". 

The problem with piracy in the region is that it's not just a local issue. It's a transnational crime that stretches across the archipelago island chains, making it particularly challenging to tackle. The Singapore and Malacca Straits are particularly problematic, with the worst instances of piracy happening in these waters.

It's a transnational crime that stretches across the archipelago island chains

To combat this issue, ASEAN has formed several groups, including the ASEAN Maritime Forum and the Maritime Security Working Group, to work on strategies to reduce piracy in the region. The group has also established the ASEAN Regional Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime and the ARF Statement on Cooperation Against Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships. These initiatives aim to improve regional cooperation, training, and legal frameworks to combat piracy, while also following international law.

ARF countries account for 80% of the world's trade and GDP, with a lot passing through the ASEAN region.

Members of the Malacca Straits Combined Control (MALSINDO), cannot follow pirates into another country's waters out of respect for the other country's sovereignty. A deal was reached to allow surveillance flights to fly three nautical miles inward of these territorial waters, but the lack of flights meant no improvements were made.

However, as not all ASEAN member states are equally impacted by piracy, it may not be the top priority for the group. In contrast, the forum has placed a higher priority on tackling terrorism, despite the reduction in risk in recent years. Instead, local groups like ReCaap and MALSINDO are taking the lead in reducing piracy in the region, while ASEAN continues to improve regional states by other means.

Not all ASEAN member states are equally impacted by piracy, it may not be the top priority

ASEAN is working hard to combat the rise of piracy in South-East Asia. Through regional cooperation, improved training and legal frameworks, and partnerships with local groups, the group is determined to protect the high seas and the global trade that passes through this vital region.

Failures in Vessel Hardening

95% of the vessels attacked were boarded. Razor wire is a poor visual deterrent and, even worse, at stopping pirates and robbers from boarding ships.

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