Tuesday, 25 January 2005

It's an ill wind

...that blows nobody any good. Sometimes, if you look really hard, you'll see a microscopic silver lining in the darkest of clouds.

From the Sydney Morning Herald :
The tsunami that erased dozens of coastal communities in Aceh, Indonesia, killing more than 228,000 people in the country, may have taken a toll on another group that has dogged security officials in the region for years.

The gigantic wave could also have wiped out a band of pirates who prey on ships travelling through the Malacca Strait, according to a Malaysian agency that tracks attacks on global shipping.

"Since December 26 tsunami we have not recorded a single attack on shipping in the Malacca Strait," says Noel Choong, of the International Maritime Board (IMB) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The IMB [International Maritime Bureau], a branch of the International Chamber of Commerce, reported 121 of the 445 attacks on commercial shipping in 2003 occurred in Indonesian waters, a 20 per cent increase over the previous year. Twenty-one seamen died, more than 350 were taken hostage and 70 remain missing.
As in the "walked the plank" kind of missing.
"One reason may be that the physical assets they (pirates) use, the boats and the weapons, were destroyed in the tsunami and of course the other possibility is that they themselves may have died. It's a big question-mark and we're watching the situation closely."
The more civilised pirates just boarded, emptied the ship's safe, and were on their way, not a lot more violent or painful than a particularly extortionate tax official. But often they'd shoot a few crew just to show they were serious, and rarely would hijack the ship and sail it to China. There a renegade PLA official would take charge, the crew sometimes being repatriated, but often just being "disappeared". From Modern High Seas Piracy :
In October the Japanese cargo ship M/V Alondra Rainbow was captured and had its 17 crew members set adrift on a raft.

In February the tanker M/T Global Mars was captured by Pirates and its crew set adrift for 13 days before being spotted off the coast of Thailand.

Also in February the cargo ship M/V HUALIEN was taken off Taiwan, but its 21 crew haven't been seen since.

You never know for sure where the crews go. When Chinese workers boarded the highjacked Australian freighter M/V Erria Inge a couple of years ago to cut it up for scrap, they smelled something foul. Searching for the source, they found ten members of the crew in a long unused refrigerator. The bodies had been splashed with gasoline and burned alive by the pirates who captured the vessel.
The tales from the boat-people who traversed these waters - those that survived - are particularly harrowing. The phrase "Buckets of Blood" may sound romantic when speaking about the Spanish Main in the 17th century, but when applied to the murder and rapine of children in small boats in the 1990's, it's quite different.

The expungement from the surface of the Earth of the Malaccan pirates would be a really, really good thing. Worth a quarter of a million innocents dead? Alas, no. I'd rather have the Pirates still in operation, slaughtering retail, rather than the wholesale massacre of the innocents by Mother Nature. Of course I don't have the choice, we must live with what is.

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