Singapore Minister Believes That ASEAN Is Increasingly Threatened by Terrorism

Picture: A man erases ISIS propaganda in Indonesia. Picture: AAP/Newzulu/Agoes Rudianto
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Saturday (Dec 10) proposed that ASEAN and other countries in the region should “intensify efforts” to combine resources in the fight against terrorism. In recent years, the Islamic State (ISIS) managed tohave a significant number of recruits from the region fighting in Iraq and Syria; some recruits and ISIS leaders are also calling for  a ‘distant caliphate’ to be established in Southeast Asia.
ASEAN has been so far largely spared of big terrorism acts although bombs and terrorist attacks were recorded in 2016 in Indonesia, Thailand while terrorism-linked violent acts are recorded in Southern Philippines. Howevber, Indonesia and Malaysia are of particularly concern with many locals being lured by ISIS. It seems also that ISIS ideologists infiltrated recently independent and/or autonomist movements in Thailand deep South. According to experts, over 500 Indonesians and over 50 Malaysians have been recorded as ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria.

Speaking at the Third Plenary Session at the 12th Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, Dr Ng noted that as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) lost ground in Iraq and Syria, foreign fighters would attempt to return to their home countries to perpetrate attacks, spread ISIS’ extremist ideology and establish another self-proclaimed caliphate outside of the Middle East.

But while the problem transcends borders and nationality, Dr Ng added that more can be done within the region and internationally. “When we work together, it strengthens capabilities and interoperability, and demonstrates our shared commitment to counter terrorism in the region.”

“This approach is also scalable, and grows more effective as more players contribute,” he added.

Dr Ng added that the battle against extremist terrorism is, at its heart, an ideological one. “We need to counter ISIS’ spread of falsehoods and half-truths that have led astray many susceptible victims, many youngsters from around the world,” he said. “Behind each statistic are lives blighted and families torn apart.”

Organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Manama Dialogue is a key security forum for the Gulf Region and serves as a platform for senior defence, security and foreign affairs officials from around the world to discuss regional security challenges. Singapore has been attending the dialogue since its inception in 2004.

(Sources: ChannelNews Asia and Gov.sg)