The Jakarta Post
The Malacca Strait, a narrow 890-kilometer stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, remains vulnerable to transnational crimes as evidenced by the high number of drug smuggling attempts that have been foiled by authorities in recent years.
The Indonesian Customs and Excise Directorate General and the Malaysian customs office recently revealed a shift in the trend and pattern of drug smuggling in the Southeast Asian region.
Customs and Excise Director General Heru Pambudi said the shift was revealed following the Malaysian customs office’s success in foiling an attempt to smuggle crystal methamphetamine to Indonesia and the Philippines.
Heru said the illegal substance had allegedly been smuggled by a syndicate from Myanmar via mainland Malaysia.
“This is rather unusual,” Heru told reporters in Medan, North Sumatra recently.
He was referring to a shift in drug dealing in the region, which was previously dominated by syndicates from outside the Southeast Asian region.
Heru said Indonesian waters were prone to smuggling as there were many different routes. The authorities have identified some 400 alternative routes along the Sumatra coastline alone. Hundreds of other routes can also be found along the Serawak-Kalimantan border.
The authorities also noted an increase in the volume of drugs seized in the past year.
“Last year, we seized 2,139 tons [of illegal substances]. The figure increased to 3,952 tons this year,” Heru said.
Dato’ Seri Zulkifli bin Yahya of the Malaysian customs office said his office had also noted the shift. The Malaysian office recently foiled an attempt to smuggle 300 kilograms of crystal meth from Myanmar to the Philippines via mainland Malaysia and another 1.2 tons via mainland Malaysia to Indonesia.
“The overland operations need to be improved. Our Patkor Kastima [cooperation] should be continued,” Zulkilfi said.
The annual Operation Patkor Kastima has been conducted since 1994 focusing on patrolling the Malacca Strait.
The joint patrol also managed to foil other transnational crimes, including an attempt to smuggle 1,500 kiloliters of crude oil from Senipah in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, to Malaysia recently.
Heru claimed the operation had foiled smuggling attempts and had saved at least Rp 5.6 trillion (US$391.5 million) in state losses so far this year, a significant increase from Rp 274 billion in 2016 and Rp 555 billion last year.
According to Heru, Indonesia plans to initiate similar cooperation with other ASEAN member countries.
“We can develop this cooperation even at the ASEAN level. We have been exploring possibilities with Singapore,” he said, adding that his side also planned to cooperate with Australia to patrol the Timor Sea and eastern Indonesian waters.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 5, 2018, with the title "Malacca Strait remains prone to transnational crimes".