Pirates of the South China Sea: A Brief Introduction to Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia with Professor Justin Hastings


Since the decline of piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia has re-emerged as the world’s hotspot for maritime piracy, with 85 reported attacks in the region in 2020 alone. Unlike much of the rest of the world, Southeast Asia has also seen a resurgence of sophisticated maritime piracy, beyond just simple robberies. Yet this recent upsurge in maritime piracy is no coincidence.

Professor Justin Hastings spoke to Dr Natali Pearson about Southeast Asia’s long history of maritime piracy, highlighting how the region’s archipelagic geography, legacies from colonial rule, trade integration, contested maritime boundaries, political unrest, and weak governance have all contributed to the rise of maritime piracy, and explaining the many strategies pirates have adopted over time to respond to state crackdowns.

Justin Hastings is Professor of International Relations and Comparative Politics at the University of Sydney. He researches the geography and political economy of clandestine groups, including maritime pirates, organized criminals, terrorists, insurgents, nuclear traffickers, and black and gray markets, with a focus on Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and the Indian Ocean Region. He is the author of No Man’s Land: Globalization, Territory, and Clandestine Groups in Southeast Asia (2010) and A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy (2016).

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website: www.sydney.edu.au/sseac.

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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