Terrorism Expert: ASEAN must act to protect economy from imminent threats.
Global event makes Asia debut, supported by Singapore’s Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Transport, as ASEAN security challenges increase
A terrorism expert has called for an ASEAN-wide response to safeguard the region from serious terrorism threats at hand to reduce social and economic impacts.
Speaking at a roundtable today ahead of the inaugural Asia Pacific Homeland Security (APHS) conference later this month, Professor Rohan Gunaratna, Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), said a multilateral response from ASEAN leaders is needed to counter increasing terrorist threats in the region.
He added that the number of Islamic State (ISIS) supporters in the region has risen and warned that the frequency and gravity of attacks like those in Bangkok in August will increase if the region’s leaders do not act together. He said more attacks would seriously harm overseas investment in the region, while also impacting local tourism.
According to Professor Gunaratna, there are now 30 terrorist groups pledged to ISIS, including 22 in Indonesia and five in Malaysia. More than 600 people from Southeast Asia have also left to fight with ISIS militants, including over 500 Indonesians and nearly 100 known recruits from Malaysia.
Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism estimates the bomb explosion in Bangkok has cost its domestic tourism industry 64 billion baht (USD $1.79 billion) in lost revenue, with one million fewer tourist arrivals. In recent weeks Governments including Australia and the United States, have also issued travel warnings for Malaysia and the Philippines.
Professor Gunaratna said:
“Another high impact terrorism incident in ASEAN will bring further serious economic repercussions across the region as investor confidence dives, and more travellers are deterred by travel warnings. Socially, there is also a risk of paranoia forming in local communities as it has in Europe.
“While Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore face the most direct terrorism threat, the problem requires an ASEAN-level response to ensure the future socio-economic security and stability of the region.
“To combat ISIS threat, the Five-Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States is a good example of how ASEAN countries might work together on this issue.
“ASEAN governments could also be doing a lot more to support local religious leaders educate followers against recruitment to ISIS and empower communities to act as ‘eyes and ears’,” he concluded.
Mr Jimmy Lau, Chairman of COGES Asia, said:
“Owing to the region’s increased security challenges, there has been growing demand for us to develop a forum where world leaders in homeland security from the public and private sectors can come together to exchange knowledge.”
The APHS conference and exhibition will take place from 27th – 30th October 2015 in Singapore and bring together top experts in homeland and civil security from the region and around the world for the first time in Asia. Those making addresses on Asia’s upcoming security landscape include Ms. Stefanie Kam – Associate Research Fellow with the ICPVTR.