Maritime boundaries a key security frontier

Indonesia calls for co-operation in securing and settling the region's multiple, complex borders.

By Yudah Prakoso and Andhika Bhakti for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

July 04, 2013
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Maritime border co-operation is not something new for many Southeast Asian countries. These complex boundaries have encouraged them to co-operate to increase security in the region as well as to use resources wisely.

  • Asep Karsidi, head of the Geospatial Information Agency of Indonesia, speaks on maritime boundaries and co-operation during a regional co-ordinating meeting on April 16th-17th in Jakarta. [Yudah Prakoso/Khabar]

    Asep Karsidi, head of the Geospatial Information Agency of Indonesia, speaks on maritime boundaries and co-operation during a regional co-ordinating meeting on April 16th-17th in Jakarta. [Yudah Prakoso/Khabar]

Indonesia peacefully maintains maritime boundaries with many countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines and Palau, Asep Karsidi, head of Indonesia's Geospatial Information Agency (BIG) told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"We need to strengthen our maritime boundaries through regional co-operation," he said, during a BIG Regional Co-ordination meeting in Jakarta in mid-April.

Asep noted that maritime are essential security points for the country as well as a key element for development.

Indonesia has many sensitive maritime borders. "For example, the port in Batam is a dangerous spot. We found so many drug smuggling cases in the region," said Anang Iskandar, chief of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN).

He added that BNN will support any co-operation in securing the maritime borders. "This can reduce the case of trafficking and smuggling which often happen in our borders," he told Khabar.

Batam, in the Riau Islands, contains seven international seaports, all of them vulnerable to narcotic smuggling, regional police chief Yotje Mende told Antara in early June. Batam is located less than an hour from Singapore and Johor, Malaysia.

"Apart from the official international ports there are 75 other small ports in Riau Islands," he said.

To combat drug smuggling in the area, police have set up an integrated task force combining police, naval and BNN resources, the report said.

Another sensitive border lies between Indonesia, the Philippines and eastern Malaysia, an area traversed by gun runners and militants as well as migrant workers.

"The route from Sabah to Southern Philippines is a favourite route for many militants in Southeast Asia. It is the same route used by Indonesian militants to escape the country," Ansyaad Mbai, chief of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told Khabar.

He said a regional approach among Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is needed to address the problem.

"We will need to secure these borders. The long coastline of the many islands and the many borders make it difficult for any government to secure the border completely," Ansyaad said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the establishment of an Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) to safeguard Sabah's coastline in March, amid a military operation against followers of a self-styled Philippines sultan who had staked a territorial claim there.

Meanwhile, Indonesia and Timor Leste have yet to finalise their land and maritime boundaries since Timor officially became independent in 2002.

Aulia Rusmanti, a University of Indonesia graduate in geography, argued that Indonesia can help maintain peace in the region through good border management.

"It is important that we understand the consequences of our maritime border. Mainly it is for security and economic purposes," she said.

"We have grey borders with countries such as Malaysia and East Timor. We need strong co-operation in case of possible attacks in the region and to prevent the growth of terrorism," she added.

"With clear boundaries, it will clarify our rights and responsibilities in Southeast Asia. A good fencing will also make a friendly and happy relationship."

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