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Has Asean Been Successful In Combating Terrorism Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 3487 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Terrorism is not new to Southeast Asia. The initiatives in countering terrorism have taken place drastically upon the major terrorist attacked in New York and Washington, United State. The September 11 attacks had shocked the world, as well as Southeast Asia. Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) in particular had immediately held various programs and producing Action Plan to combat terrorism. This essay will address the commitment of ASEAN towards terrorism and its successfulness. The essay will started first by deriving some definition of terrorism. Then it will cover the rise of terrorist activities after the September 11 attack and how it affects the world and subsequently Southeast Asian region. It then follows with extracting some significant initiatives and measures taken by ASEAN and its individual member states to combat terrorist activities and consequently draw analyses to its effectiveness and successfulness. This essay will then deriving a conclusion as the final phase.

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Terrorism is the use of illegal forces which create violence against civilian and property. The main objective is to weaken the country’s political, social and economic elements, as well as generating fears to the nation. Most of the strategies used including bombings, shootings, hijackings and assassination. According to the United State Code, terrorism can be defined “as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents” (Mahan.S & Griset. P. L, 2008:3). United State Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (Mahan.S & Griset. P. L, 2008:3). Both definitions stress out the use of violence which targeting civilians and focusing towards political and social stability.


Post September 11 attacks in the United State had shown the emergence of more terrorist activities around the world especially in the Southeast Asia region. Various major terrorist attacks have increased and shocked the world particularly Southeast Asia. Subsequently after the September 11 attacks, on 12 October 2002, the Indonesian Government was surprised by the horrific terrorist bombing in the island of Bali. The blasts had caused 202 death and injuring 240 people (Kumar 2004:45). Majority of the victims were Australian. Another suicide bombing happened for the second time in Bali in October 2005 which killed 23 people including three bombers and had injured 129 people. It is believed that both Bali bombing were using the same explosive chemicals. In August 2003, JW Marriott Hotel of Jakarta became the next target. Suicide bombing and car bomb had killed 12 people and injuring 150. Majority of the people killed were Indonesian. The terrorist attacks continued threatening the political stability of the Indonesian Government when the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was bomb by the suicide bomber. A car explosion had killed 11 people and wounded more than 160. The JW Marriott Hotel was again bomb for the second time in July 2009 as well as another hotel, Ritz-Carlton Hotel five minutes later. Both blasts caused seven death and more than 50 people were injured. Investigation had revealed that both bombing were caused by suicide bombers who checked into the hotels as guests.

All the terrorist attacks had caused major catastrophic towards the stability of the world. They affect economic, political and security stability as well as social strength of a country. Southeast Asia is also having significant negative impact regionally. One of the major economic industries affected is tourism industry. Countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore which has economic profit from tourism are largely suffered. The Strait of Malacca as an important sea-lane of communication will also be affected as a result from terrorist threats. In term of political stability, apart from directly affected by the terrorist act, an increase of anti United State sentiment has increase. United State effort in combating terrorism in Southeast Asia and associating Islam with violence and cruelty have created political instability in certain countries and crafted religious conflict. It eventually possessed ugly relationship between countries.

Security instability furthermore occurred with the rise of terrorism in Southeast Asia. Not only focusing on terrorist acts, the security of Southeast Asia is facing related threat of transnational crime. Both terrorism and transnational crime are interrelated mainly for funding and arms. This had threatened the security of the country as well as the communities. The impact of any terrorist bombings on the societies also cannot be easily dismissed. It caused psychological effect to the population and stimulated fear towards the society in everyday life.

Two large terrorist groups that exist and operate in Southeast Asia are Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) whom its homeland is in Indonesia and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) of Southern Philippines. Both terrorist groups have created terror and violence around Southeast Asia and both have similar vision of creating pan-Islamic state. Their primary targets are mostly United State and Western interest in Southeast Asia region. JI and ASG are believed to have operational links for many years. United State Department of State has described both JI and ASG as Foreign Terrorist Organisations.

JI is an Islamic militant group believed to have linked with al-Qaeda. It is the ‘Southeast Asia’s most notorious and deadly indigenous terrorist organisation’ (Smith, 2010:12). A well known Indonesian-based terrorist group, JI is one of the most radical Islamist networks whom to have vision to establish a ‘unification of all Southeast Asian Muslims in a new caliphate transcending secular state boundaries’ (Weatherbee, 2005:11). Their vision of a pan-Islamic state aiming to create Islamic State comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand and eventually Brunei. JI was formally founded in 1993 by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Abdullah Sungkar who was also the co-leader. Abdullah Sungkar was the one who responsible to establish contact with Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. Majority of the JI top leaders had their training as volunteers with the Taliban in Afghanistan. They had honed their military skills and adopted Taliban’s ideology and eventually developing links with al-Qaeda. JI has been suspected to have attacked and plotted against United State and Western targets in Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Various major terrorist attacks had been linked to JI such as the shocking 2002 and 2005 Bali bombing, the 2003 JW Marriott hotel bombing, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing, and the 2009 JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotel bombings. It is also believed that JI has been involved in various bombings in the southern Philippines which associated with the ASG. Based on Singapore officials, the strength of JI members is estimated to be approximately more than 5000 members.

Another terrorist group which is widely operating in Southeast Asia is Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). ASG has been considered as ‘the most violent Islamic separatist groups operating in the southern Philippines’ (Mahan.S & Griset. P. L, 2008: 325). Most of the leaders had fought in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. In 1991, the group had ‘split from the Moro National Liberation Front’ which was lead by Abdulrajak Abubakar Janjalani (Mahan.S & Griset. P. L, 2008:325). The leader was killed by the Philippine police in December 1998 and then replaced by his younger brother, Khadaffy Janjalani. According to the Global Security Organisation, Khadaffy Janjalani has also been killed during the raid conducted by the Philippines security forces in Jolo Island, Sulu Province, Philippines in 4 September 2006. ASG has strong relationship with JI which provide training and funding. It is also believed that ASG is supported by al-Qaeda. The area of operations for the ASG is mainly in the Philippines and also Malaysia.

ASG is accused responsible for various bombings, hostages taking and kidnappings, which aiming for financial gaining for their operation. In 1995, the group has conducted their first large-scale raid over the town of Ipil in Mindanao (Mahan.S & Griset. P. L, 2008:325). ASG is also accountable for kidnapping 21 persons from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan in 2000 including 10 foreign tourists. While in May 2001, the ASG had kidnapped 20 tourists which include three United State citizens from the resort in Palawan. Some of them were murdered. Other attacks linked to ASG such as the bombing in Zamboanga City in 2002, the bombing of Superferry in 2004, the kidnapped and beheaded of seven local workers in Jolo in 2007, the kidnapped of an Irish priest in 2009, and the attack on the village of Tubigan, Basalan in 2010 which killed 11 people (Australian National Security, 2010). The strength of ASG is believed to be approximately more than 400 members.


The threat posed by terrorist groups is extremely serious and has undermined the peace and stability as well as economic development regionally and internationally. Due to that, ASEAN and its member states are taking greater initiatives to deal with the issue of terrorism at the national and international level. More agreements, programmes, workshops, and law policies have been introduced. The September 11 attacks in the United State and subsequent attacks in Bali had waken-up ASEAN to urgently and seriously acquiring more efforts and initiatives in combating terrorism.

Immediately after the September 11 attacks in 2001 in the United State, ASEAN had conducted their 7th ASEAN Summit on 05 November 2001 in Brunei Darussalam. The agenda was to produce ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism. It was further emphasized during 8th ASEAN Summit through Declaration on Terrorism (Pushpanathan.S. 2003). In 2002, the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) was held in Kuala Lumpur on 16 – 17 May 2002 (Asean Secretariat, 2009). During the meeting ASEAN has adopted the Work Programme which implements the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime which include element of terrorism. Subsequently, the same year the Annual Conference of ASEAN Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL) was held in May 2002 in Phnom Penh. The conference called for joint cooperation among the ASEANAPOL members in fighting terrorism.

Various workshops were also developed by ASEAN in combating terrorism. In January 2003, ASEAN had established an anti-terrorism task force to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism amongst police and law enforcement officials (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, 2003). Law to prevent and deter the movement of terrorist across national border was also introduced by the ASEAN Immigration Authorities. On July 2, 2004, during the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) all ministers had agreed to strengthen the transport security against international terrorism (ASEAN Regional Forum, 2004). These provided a strong basis for the ASEAN commitment in countering terrorism. The 2008 ARF Defence Dialogue held in Singapore also reiterated the priority for counter-terrorism cooperation among ARF members. Another latest meeting of the Eight ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime held in Bandar Seri Begawan in April 2010 further increased ASEAN long commitment in counter-terrorism (ASEAN Regional Forum, 2010).


ASEAN and its member countries are committed to the highest level in combating terrorist activities bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally. They are not only focusing on their regional efforts, but also engaging international community to enhance their capability in counter-terrorism. In adopting a comprehensive and more coordinated approach towards counter-terrorism, ASEAN has taken several actions and agreements internationally.

A Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism has been set up between ASEAN member countries and Australia, India, Russia and United State. It is confirming the importance of ‘cooperation to prevent, disrupt and combat international terrorism through the exchange and flow of information, intelligence and capacity – building’ (Asean Secretariat, 2009).

ASEAN has also building cooperation with European Union (EU) in combating terrorism. The 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) has been conducted on 27-28 May 2009 in Cambodia (Asean Secretariat, 2009). The meeting is focusing on greater collaboration on ‘capacity-building for counter-terrorism practitioners and other officials concerned with combating terrorism’ (Asean Secretariat, 2009). The 18th AEMM which was held in Madrid, 26 May 2010 further emphasized serious commitment and efforts by both organisations ‘to promote counter-terrorism, co-operation and enhance human security, through collective and bilateral approaches’ (Council of European Union, 2010).

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The 12th ASEAN-Japan Summit which was held in Thailand on 24 October 2009 shows another effort for ASEAN in cooperation to combat terrorism through the ASEAN-Japan Counter Terrorism Dialogue (Asean Secretariat, 2009). Both ASEAN and Japan are addressing the issues on counter-terrorism and developing some cooperation in maintaining peace and stability in the ASEAN region. It was further enhanced and shared during the 13th ASEAN-Japan Summit in Vietnam on 29 October 2010 (Asean Secretariat, 2009).

ASEAN’s initiative in combating terrorism is in-line with the United Nations (UN) efforts in fighting international terrorism. It is also in accordance with the UN Charter and international law (United Nations, 2010). The third ASEAN – UN Summit which was held on 29 October 2010 in Hanoi Vietnam was a significant event throughout the calendar addressing the peace and stability of the ASEAN region.

This year also, the launching of first Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) in Hanoi portrayed another commitment of ASEAN in fighting terrorism (Asean Defence Military Meeting, 2010). The cooperation with Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, and the United States marked a new platform for security and defence cooperation towards counter-terrorism in Southeast Asia (Asean Defence Military Meeting, 2010).


Initiative in combating terrorism is not only carry out by ASEAN as an organization. Strong members such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have taken serious step by developing their own nation awareness and initiatives in combating terrorism. The arrest of most wanted JI Operations Chief Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, in Ayutthaya Thailand in August 2003 has open the world’s eyes that ASEAN members are taking seriously on combating terrorism. Hambali is an Indonesian citizen who was believes to be involved in the 2002 Bali bombing and also financing the bombing of the Jakarta Marriott Hotel in 2003. He is currently detained in the Unites State Military Prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Another success in counter-terrorism operation is shown by the Indonesian Government in which they managed to kill a Malaysian Noordin Mohammad Top in a police raid on 17 September 2009 near Solo, Central Java. Noordin Mohammad Top is Southeast Asia’s most wanted man, who has been behind every major attack on Westerners in Indonesia, including the Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Indonesian Government has also recently conducted counter-terrorism operation on the outskirts of Jakarta which killed three JI militants. All the three militants were wanted for the involvement in the 2002 Bali bombing (Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, 2010:10). The commitment of Indonesian Government in combating terrorism was further shown by the arrest of the ‘co-founder and spiritual leader of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Southeast Asia’, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir (Bill Roggio, 2010).

Multilateral effort between ASEAN members in combating terrorism has led to another achievement made by the Malaysian Government, Indonesian Government and Singapore Government. The capture of Singaporean of Indonesian origin, Mas Selamat Kastari, head of the Singapore cell of JI, by the Malaysian Police demonstrated stronger security cooperation between countries. Mas Selamat Kastari is a ‘top terror suspect accused in a plot to crash a hijacked plane’ into Singapore’s international airport (Associated Press, 2009).


ASEAN commitment in countering terrorism was actually initiated way before the September 11 attacks in United State. It is fair to say that ASEAN is partially successful in combating terrorism based on their previous achievements mentioned above. The success of ASEAN commitment is further emphasized by having more discussion, workshop, and meeting in producing action plan and come up with the best practice to be acquired. It has also supported in developing various centre committed in combating terrorism in the region. ASEAN has taken various steps not only between the ASEAN member states but also engaging international states as well as major organization such as UN and EU.

The establishment of Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism marked significant effort in combating terrorism. It is based in Malaysia aimed to train and build the capacity of law enforcement and security officials from governments in the region (Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 2010). It also provides Malaysia’s perspective on the most effective means and comprehensive manner of dealing with terrorism. One of the successes of its establishment had led to the arrest of Mas Selamat Kastari, head of JI in Singapore. Indonesia had also successfully conducted several raids aiming to arrest JI members as much as they could. The Indonesian Government had pledge their commitment to combat terrorist activities in the country. They had established a Special Detachment 88 aimed to focus on counter-terrorism within Indonesia.

More efforts had shown success recently with the killing and arresting of various terrorist suspects and major terrorist leaders in the Southeast Asia region. The achievements in counter-terrorism operation within the ASEAN countries as well as bilateral and multilateral cooperation proved the world on the ASEAN capabilities towards combating terrorist activities.

The success of ASEAN in combating terrorism could be acquired such as attacking terrorist locations by using military or police forces. But based on the past military campaign around the region, it is ineffective and only showing success in winning the battle, but the terrorist activities are still spreading and failed to be eliminated entirely (Keling M. F, 2009: 44). Hence, different approaches can be adopted to solve this problem such as negotiation and diplomacy. The problems can be resolved between the terrorist groups and the government in a more civilized manner and producing less blood. Organisations such as ASEAN, Non Alignment Movement (NAM) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) ‘may serve as mediators to organise solution diplomaticly, which will hopefully create peace and regional stability’ (Keling M. F, 2009: 45).


This essay has examined the successful of ASEAN in combating terrorism. All the initiatives taken by the organization regionally and internationally as well as by the individual countries have proven the level of success they have produced. They have addressed the root causes of terrorism through regional integration and narrowing the development gaps among member countries so that the measures and initiatives taken will be effective and sustainable. However, there is still likelihood that terrorist attacks will continue in the future. Therefore, ASEAN would need to continue their commitment in combating terrorism and as well as acquiring support and cooperation from its dialogue partners and the international community.


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