Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has demanded that the Malaysian government steps up security in its ocean territory near Sabah in the north of Kalimantan after another group of Indonesian fishermen – who were working as a crew on a Malaysian boat – were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group last week.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday brought two fishermen – Muhammad Farhan and his father Maharudin Lunani, who had also been taken hostage by another armed group in an earlier kidnapping – back to their family in Jakarta.
Last week, the Southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped five more Indonesian fishermen in Malaysian territory near Tambisan Island in the Sulu Sea on the state of Sabah.
Since 2016, a total of 44 Indonesian citizens have been kidnapped by armed groups near the area, most of whom had links to the Abu Sayyaf group.
"We are asking the Malaysian Government to step up security in the area. We've also advised all ship owners to prioritize the safety of their crew and obey orders from the Malaysian government," Retno said in Jakarta on Thursday.
"The Indonesian government is very concerned with the current security situation in the Sulu Sea. Yesterday, we called in the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia and the Philippine chargé d'affaires [in Jakarta] to talk about the latest kidnapping of five Indonesians," Retno said.
By the latest estimation, there are around 1,500 Indonesians currently working as ship crew for Malaysian companies in and around Sabah.
The Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Zainal Abidin Bakar said his government has taken steps to address the recurring kidnapping.
"The ocean [around Sabah] is very vast, more than 100 square kilometers. It could be very difficult to keep an eye on all the fishermen there, especially when they're not following the rules," Zainal said in Jakarta on Thursday.
The Malaysian government has already applied a night curfew to prevent fishermen from getting kidnapped out at sea at night, but many of them ignored the rule and went out fishing anyway.
"The Malaysian government has spent a tremendous amount of money on law enforcement in the area, we're doing our best. But we will soon review our SOP to make our preventive action even more effective," Zainal said.