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The Resurgence of Sea Piracy in Southeast Asia

Éric Frécon


Jean-Luc Domenach

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Asie du Sud-Est

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Important data regarding the main countries dealt with in this study

Important data regarding the main countries dealt with in this study

Source: Asian Development Bank, Outlook 2002
* year 2000

1What is the world and how does one read it? Which facts are to be studied in order to understand it better? An age-old question to which answers have evolved in tandem with the international situation. During the Cold War, the focus was on facts, which were official so to speak; that is to say on facts which propaganda and diplomats recognized as such. The world that was being analysed was generally the one, which the nations knew and dominated, it was essentially a strategic world.

2The end of the Cold War brought about a complete change in perspective. Rendered powerless by the superiority of the Capitalist world, the Communist powers of Central and Eastern Europe were forced to allow the reappearance of a social and cultural reality that they had claimed in vain to have abolished. The disappearance of the Soviet Union led, not to the “New World Order” that President Bush senior wished for, but to a much more confused situation in which the developed nations of the world find themselves threatened by new challenges which arise exactly where one did not expect them: on the periphery of their domination. As a result, a series of economic and political accidents have revealed an international reality far more complex than before, that the nations find hard to check: a more and more social reality.

3Asia has been in the forefront of this evolution. Chronologically, of course, because the Communist regimes and parties here weakened much earlier than elsewhere, beginning in the mid-70s. But also because during the nineties, Asia harboured the early signs of various orders and disorders possible.

4Let us not forget, after having exaggerated it, the contribution of the Asian economies to the formation of a new global commercial order. Let us also not forget the tentative efforts of some officials of Southeast Asia towards a regionalisation founded on the voluntary construction of an “Asiatist” idealogy. These were incontestable contributions to the reorganization of the post Cold War world. But they wrongly eclipsed the fragility of the internal societies, and the inadequate regulation of the Asian region.

  • 1 Karoline Postel-Vinay: Corée au coeur de la nouvelle Asie ; Flammarion, 2002, Paris, 318 p.

5This fragility aggravated the financial crisis that developed in the entire region in 1997-1998. The crisis, that has today been checked although not completely eradicated, has made the fragility more evident and has, in turn, aggravated it. But this fragility also compelled the Governments of the region to undertake efforts to reduce it, leading to some internal stabilisation and the revival of a more substantial process of regionalisation than before1.

6Eric Frécon’s study starkly reveals this fragility by boldly plunging into a reality-that of piracy-that during the Cold War had been habitually restricted to notes of secret agents or for the reports of some original journalists. The study is an interesting approach. The development of terrorism has in fact confirmed it: a major part of the current scenario which matters now is that of the underground, economic, mafia-like or terrorist forces, forces that are beyond control and of which sometimes the nations are fully aware. Piracy is therefore an important phenomenon today; its analysis allows us to measure the power of the nations and the regulation of international zones.

7But the investigation is difficult and calls for intelligence, passion, the audacity to search in the dark and the courage to not be taken in: these are the very qualities that this work embodies.

  • 2 Jean-Luc Domenach L’Asie en danger, Fayard, Paris, 1998, 338 p.

8This book constitutes an excellent photograph of the weaknesses but also of the recovery of the Asians. It explains how piracy reappeared massively after the Cold War, firstly on account of the general deficiencies of the region and the weaknesses (or tactics) of some nations. But it also shows that the region has evolved. When I brought it up in 1998 in “L’Asie en danger2, piracy was partially imputable to the internal situation and to the foreign policy of China. Since then, the collapse of Indonesia and the recovery of the Chinese regime have pushed it back towards the Straits of Southeast Asia.

9Eric Frécon’s book also describes how the efforts of regional coordination and the policies of certain big nations like Japan and India acted upon piracy, in order to contain it, on the whole. The problem seems to have, since then, been identified and to a large extent handled; one may hope that it will be resolved in the years to come, even though the Indonesian crisis may seriously impede regulation efforts.

10Nonetheless the fact remains that the reappearance of piracy and the delay in suppressing it brings to the fore the danger that the weaknesses and crises faced by some of the big nations of the region constitute for the world: China previously and Indonesia or Pakistan today. This proves moreover that despite the economic coagulation and the efforts made to work in concertation, Asia probably remains the most problematic region of the world, not the most troubled nor in all probability the most dangerous, but one whose collective identity is the least evident and where “self-awareness” remains the most ill-defined.


1 Karoline Postel-Vinay: Corée au coeur de la nouvelle Asie ; Flammarion, 2002, Paris, 318 p.

2 Jean-Luc Domenach L’Asie en danger, Fayard, Paris, 1998, 338 p.

Table des illustrations

Titre Southeast Asia
Fichier image/jpeg, 247k
Titre Important data regarding the main countries dealt with in this study
Légende Source: Asian Development Bank, Outlook 2002* year 2000
Fichier image/jpeg, 272k

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