BANGI – Malaysia should follow its neighbours’ example and unilaterally rename its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea to assert its sovereignty in the ongoing maritime territorial dispute, a Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia lecturer said yesterday.

Abdul Muein Abadi who specialises in political science suggested that the name could be “Malaysia Raya Sea”, to send a message to Chinese fishing and navy vessels that allegedly invade Malaysian waters.

“Why should we keep continuing to use the South China Sea name? Three of our neighbours have done it, we should have taken the same step,” said Muein, whose researches cover the territorial dispute, Chinese relations, and Chinese investment here.

Muein was a panellist in a forum on “Sinicisation” by Interdisciplinary Research and International Strategy (IRIS) Institute here, which refers to the process of non-Chinese societies getting influenced by China, especially its culture.

The South China Sea covers 3,500,000 sq km of area from the Straits of Malacca to the Straits of Taiwan, with territorial claims by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia.

In September 2012, the Philippines renamed its EEZ in the sea to the West Philippine Sea, and Indonesia followed suit last July by renaming its EEZ the North Natuna Sea. Meanwhile, Vietnam has long called the area the East Sea.

In response to Muein, historian Zaharah Sulaiman suggested an international effort to rename the South China Sea as the Champa Sea, which she noted was its regional name prior, after the ancient Kingdom of Champa.

But since the Kingdom of Champa no longer exists, she said the sea can be renamed the Sunda Sea instead, a term that also refers to the Malay archipelago.

“France was the one who renamed Champa Sea to South China when it colonised Vietnam…We should have a seminar to revert the name to its old one,” said Zaharah, a member of the Malaysian Archaeology Alliance executive council who was in the audience at the forum.

Last year, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said in Parliament that China and Malaysia do not have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Anifah said that Malaysia and other Asean members who are claimants to the territory also claimed by China, do not acknowledge the republic’s “nine-dash line” argument as it was not in accordance with international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982.

In the past few years, there have been several international petitions to rename the sea, among others to the Indochina Sea, Asean Sea, Southeast Asia Sea, or just South Sea.

– Malay Mail