Indonesia urges Malaysia and Philippines to step up maritime security against kidnapping

 Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi makes a statement regarding the kidnapping of three Indonesian sailors from a boat off of Sabah at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia July 11, 2016.
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi makes a statement regarding the kidnapping of three Indonesian sailors from a boat off of Sabah at the Foreign Ministry in Jakarta, Indonesia July 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesia has called on neighbours Malaysia and the Philippines to tighten security in waters where there have been a spate of kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf militants in recent months.

In the latest case on Saturday (July 9), gunmen snatched three Indonesian crewmen from a vessel in the waters off Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah, in what is the fourth kidnapping at sea involving Indonesians this year.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, speaking on Monday (July 11) after a high-level meeting on the kidnapping, said "such incidents cannot be tolerated".

Ms Retno confirmed that the victims were taken at 10.33 pm local time on Saturday when they were about eight nautical miles from the shore off Felda Sahabat in Tungku, Lahad Datu.

"The abducted crew members are Indonesians and they have been moved to Tawi-Tawi waters in southern Philippines," she told a press briefing in Jakarta earlier.

The Abu Sayyaf, notorious for kidnapping people at sea and demanding millions of dollars in ransom for their return, first abducted 10 Indonesian sailors on March 29 and another four on April 15. All 14 hostages were released in May, but on June 20, another seven were taken.

The latest kidnapping brings the total number of Indonesian crewmen held hostage by the rebel group now to 10.

"We are asking the Philippines and Malaysia governments to step up efforts to maintain the security within their territories on land and within their waters," said Ms Retno. "Specifically for the Philippines, we ask that they take immediate action to release the Indonesian hostages, the safety of the hostages is a priority."

Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu will be meeting his counterparts from the Philippines and Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to discuss the issue, said Ms Retno, adding that there is now "greater urgency than before to immediately implement cooperation" between the three Asean nations to deal with the threat.

She added that Lahad Datu Police had identified the hostages as Mr Lorence Koten, 34; Mr Teo Dorus Kopong, 42; and Mr Emanuel, 46. All three were from East Nusa Tenggara in Indonesia, and possess legal work permits for Malaysia.

"After we received this information, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has coordinated with Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Consulate in Tawau and Embassy as well as Consulate in Davao to monitor the situation," she added.

Indonesian military chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, who was at the same meeting on Monday, said he has observed that the Abu Sayyaf has a tendency to kidnap Indonesians.

tkchan@sph.com.sg