The Jakarta Post
The Navy's Western Fleet Command ( Koarmabar ) has reported that it has arrested five members of a gang that stole equipment from ships in the Malacca Strait, saying such criminals gave the Malacca Strait a bad reputation as one of the world's most dangerous sea routes.
'They are not pirates. They are just sea criminals who climb on to vessels and steal parts. The purpose of the crime was to steal and sell the parts to other people who are also members of the gang,' Koarmabar commander Rear Admiral Achmad Taufiqoerrahman said in Jakarta on Thursday.
Taufiq said the gang was not the same as pirates who hijack vessels and hold the crews hostage for ransom. 'These are the real criminals who have had a serious impact on security in the Malacca Strait,' he added.
The five alleged thieves have been identified only as WN alias GB, 44, KM alias KR, 21, CK alias GL, 35, WY, 23, and RM, 23. They are believed to have been stealing spare parts from ships for years and could earn up to Rp 15 million ( US$1,099 )monthly.
WN told reporters that he had been in the gang for only four months. 'I received a monthly income of Rp 5 million from this activity,' WN said.
He admitted that his task was to board the ships secretly and steal the equipment. 'If we found no spare parts, we would leave the ships,' WN said.
According to WN, he sold the spare parts to other gang members that were connected to the market.
It was reported that another gang member, identified only as JM, was arrested in Jakarta for allegedly buying equipment from looted ships.
The five men were caught in their hideout in Pamijahan subdistrict, Bogor, West Java, on the slopes of Mount Salak on Nov. 11.
GL was shot in the leg as he attempted to evade arrest.
The hideout was discovered based on information from other gang members who had been arrested when the group tried to rob the MV Merlin in the Malacca Strait on Oct. 22.
On Oct. 24, the Navy uncovered the location where the gang hid stolen goods worth around Rp 10 billion, on Parit Island, Riau Islands regency.
'This group made good money, up to Rp 2 billion, only by stealing and selling spare parts,' Taufiq said.
Taufiq said the Koarmabar would question the gang further before handing them over to prosecutors.
'This is a regular crime. They might get at least a year behind bars for stealing. However, this kind of crime makes the Malacca Strait look bad in the eyes of the international community,' Taufiq said.
Currently, Koarmabar is conducting a quick response operation aimed at securing the maritime territory of western Indonesia. The Navy claims the operation has been successful in reducing crime.
However, Taufiq acknowledged that one of his concerns now was rampant drug smuggling in the Malacca Strait.
'Indonesia and Malaysia should strengthen [security] cooperation, because if we guard the strait alone it is difficult to curb drug smuggling in the area,' he said.
The Malacca Strait has long been a hotbed of criminal activity, such as robbery and piracy, and has received a lot of media attention in recent years.