Salvagers have removed the wrecks of two Dutch submarines HNLMS K XVII and HNLMS O 16 – and remains of 79 crew.
Dozens of warships believed to contain the remains of thousands of British, American, Australian, Dutch and Japanese servicemen from the second world war have been illegally ripped apart by salvage divers.
In late 2017, the Guardian reported that an analysis of ships discovered by wreck divers and naval historians has found that up to 40 second world war-era vessels have already been partially or completely destroyed.
Last August, the then British defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, condemned the damage done by looters to Royal Navy battleships sunk in those seas and called upon the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia to protect these wargraves from illegal salvagers. In March this year, the Dutch foreign minister, Stef Blok, signed agreements with both Indonsian and Malaysian governments to locate and protect vulnerable wrecks in their waters.
Just some pieces of metal left
Lately, according to Dutch media reports, the wrecks of two Dutch submarines sunk off the Malaysian coast during the second world war have disappeared along with the remains of the 79 men who perished onboard. Researchers discovered just a few remains of HNLMS O 16 and a mere outline in the seabed of the hull of HNLMS K XVII after investigating a possible disturbance.
According to Dutch government officials, the subs were likely stolen by scrap-metal scavengers, who have made a habit of pilfering old wrecks from the region.