The Sea and the Fury

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The Sea and The Fury

Piracy seems more suited to Johnny Depp and Robert Louis Stevenson books, not devastating violent acts that have had an ever-growing fear in the 21st century. Southeast Asia, or the `Arc of Instability' (a more appropriate name for this essay), has become a hot spot for modern day pirates within the last decade. Maritime Terrorism has also become more widespread due to several Southeast Asian terrorist groups who have the intention and capability of waging terror on the high seas. However, one cannot say that piracy is a more persistent and significant threat to regional security than international terrorist networks. In many cases, piracy and terrorism overlap, and can therefore be constituted as the same thing. Piracy is defined by the United Nations as “violence on the high seas, that is, beyond any state's territorial waters” (Young & Valencia, 269) and to the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau as “an act of boarding or attempting to board any ship with the intent to commit theft or any other crime and with the intent or capability to use force in furtherance of that act". (Young & Valencia, 269.) Maritime Terrorism is defined as “political piracy” which is “any illegal act directed against ships, their passengers, cargo, crew or against sea ports with the intent of directly or indirectly influencing a government or group of individuals." (Young & Valencia, 270.) Because these acts are similar in nature and intent, one cannot be said to be more of a threat than the other. This paper will analyze separate cases of piracy and terrorism and cases where the acts overlap, with attention given to the Straits of Malacca, one of the world's busiest waterways and a veritable sitting duck for terrorism and piracy.

Piracy has made a remarkable return to the new world with hundreds of cases being reported every year. With many of the surrounding countries in the South Pacific being economically and politically unstable, and the fact that the seas are some of the most heavily trafficked in the world, piracy has become a viable means of thievery. “Reported incidents of piracy worldwide have dramatically increased over the last 5 years, peaking at 469 in 2000. A significant portion of these incidents occurred in Southeast Asian waters, increasing from 22 in 1997 to 164 in 2002. Indonesian waters alone accounted for 119 out of 469 reported worldwide incidents in 2000, 91 out of 335 incidents in 2001, and 103 incidents of a total 370 reported incidents in 2002.” (Young & Valencia, 270.) Piracy is used for financial gain, with different levels of piracy set at common thievery, temporary seizures, long-term seizure and hijacking. The Straits of Malacca saw a cargo ship, the Alondra Rainbow, of aluminum ingots hijacked on its way to Japan. The crew was held hostage for a week before being set adrift; they were later found by a Thai fishing boat. The ship was found weeks later in Indian waters.

Terrorism is usually not heard of at sea, but is just as serious as it is on land. “Terrorism, and its maritime manifestation, political piracy or maritime terrorism, is motivated by political goals beyond the immediate act of attacking or hijacking a maritime target.” (Young & Valencia, 271.) The Abu Sayyaf Group, the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka and the Jemaah Islamiyah are three terrorist groups with roots in the South Pacific that have taken advantage of the high volume of shipping that passes through the waters by perpetrating acts of piracy and terrorism. Al-Qaeda is also thought to be an enemy that would terrorize ships traveling through the region. “Not only do pirates terrorize ships' crews, but terror groups like al-Qaeda could also use pirates' methods either to attack ships, or to seize ships to use in terror attacks at mega-ports, much like the Sept. 11 hijackers used planes. A more sinister scenario is that a small but lethal biological weapon could be smuggled into...
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