New Moves to Provide Regional Submarine Safety

Courtesy of astrid westvang/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 2 June 2017.


Malaysia and Singapore have recently introduced new measures for submarine safety while China is reportedly contemplating restrictions on submarines operating in its waters. However, these measures are not without problems.


The Malasian government has recently established three Permanent Submarine Exercise Areas off the coasts of Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysia. These are aimed at providing a safe area for Malaysian submarines to conduct their operations.

To facilitate the safety of these operations, Malaysia requires certain activities in these areas, such as weapon firings, diving operations and surveying, be notified to Malaysian authorities. Failure to provide this notification means that the Malaysian government is not responsible for any damage or loss of ships, equipment, and life, caused as a result of an accident involving a Malaysian submarine.

Evaluating Malaysia’s ASEAN Chairmanship

Flag of Malaysia
Flag of Malaysia. Image: Eric Teoh/flickr

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 5 December, 2015.

Malaysia ended its chairmanship of ASEAN as the grouping announced the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in November 2015. The AEC intends to create a single market across the ASEAN region by standardising economic regulations including those on trade, flows of financial capital and labour migration. Malaysia is one of a few ASEAN countries that have pushed most strongly for initiatives to enhance intraregional economic cooperation. But there may be cause for disappointment in what Malaysia has achieved as ASEAN’s chair.

While ASEAN has announced that it has achieved more than 90 per cent of AEC targets, this does not appear to have brought many tangible benefits for either the region’s business community or ordinary people. Businesses continue to complain about overlapping rules and regulations that raise their costs when trading and doing business across borders. Though 10 countries have signed onto a framework that intends to direct the movement of skilled labour in the region, actual movement remains subject to the policies of individual nations. Ordinary people are yet to acknowledge that ASEAN initiatives have resulted in higher income and more job opportunities.


What’s Next, Malaysia?

Malaysian flag. Image by Eric Teoh/Flickr.

As expected, the National Front (BN) coalition won Malaysia’s May 5 election, but not without widespread allegations of electoral fraud, including the use of Bangladeshi migrants as illegal voters and other gerrymandering tactics. The opposition People’s Pact (PR) coalition leader Anwar Ibrahim refused to concede defeat and held a protest rally on May 8, attended by about 100,000.

The election’s outcome and the immediate responses by BN leadership threaten to undermine the powerful example of Malaysia as an Islamic country with parliamentary democracy and a parallel legal system of civil and Islamic laws. Even though the US has recognized the BN win, the White House has called on the Malaysian authorities to investigate the claims of election irregularities. It is imperative that the United States spoke out on this issue as it still plays a huge role in promoting democracy through fair elections.

Crisis in Sabah After Malaysia’s Standoff with Armed Filipinos

Map of Sabah and the standoff in Lahad Datu. Photo from Wikipedia
Map of Sabah and the standoff in Lahad Datu. Via Cmglee on Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

On February 9, 2013, 200 armed Filipinos belonging to the so-called Royal Sulu Army occupied parts of Lahad Datu in Sabah (North Borneo) and declared ownership of the whole territory in the name of the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Sabah has been part of the Malaysian Federation since 1963. In response, the Sulu Sultanate has continued to assert its historical and proprietary claims over the territory. Moreover, the Philippines has yet to officially drop its claim that Sabah is part of its territory.

For three weeks, the Malaysian government asked the armed Filipinos in Lahad Datu to surrender. But finally on March 5, the military attacked the group and ended the occupation. The clash and subsequent military operations reportedly led to the killing of more than 60 individuals, including 8 members of the Malaysian police.

The Sabah Issue and its Impact on Philippine-Malaysian Relations

Map of Sabah, Malaysia
Map of Sabah, Malaysia. Photo: Yodod/flickr.

Despite playing second string to the South China Sea disputes in recent years, the state of Sabah (also known as North Borneo) has long been a major irritant in bilateral relations between the Philippines and Malaysia. However, a lasting resolution of this longstanding issue would help cement bilateral ties between the two countries, enhance maritime security and help regulate seaborne trade. Finally, a resolution may help determine the fate of thousands of Filipino refugees, migrants and their descendants in Sabah, many of whom remain stateless to this day.