Malaysia and Indonesia had a naval stare-down recently over an oil-rich area in the Sulawesi Sea. From a Singapore Angle (formerly “Singapore Tsunami Relief Effort” blog) covers the story in four parts, with a lot of background about effects on ASEAN and other regional relationships.
Meanwhile, Colby Cosh (on 7 March) covers another angle of dispute between the two states, the huge number of illegal (and indispensible) Indonesian workers in Malaysia.
Recognizing the perceived need for cheap Indonesian labour, the Malay government decided to seek a middle course: give the workers an amnesty period to return to Indonesia, have their status regularized and documented, participate in classes that would instruct them in the distinctive cultural sensitivities of their Malay masters, and return to Malaysia to get back to the saw and the scrub-brush.
What the Malaysians didn’t foresee was that once the workers had returned to Indonesia with their Malaysian savings, they might not be allowed back over the border so easily. Indonesian officials, it appears, have jumped at the chance to hold their rich neighbour’s workforce hostage, or at least to squeeze it for every penny they can get.