Shanmugam: South-east Asian countries need to step up cooperation to fight extremist terrorism

Mr Shanmugam meeting Mr Wiranto in Bali yesterday. The Indonesian minister said officials agreed on the importance of prevention efforts across borders, adding that ''if we do not cooperate, we would be beaten by the terror network''.
Mr Shanmugam meeting Mr Wiranto in Bali yesterday. The Indonesian minister said officials agreed on the importance of prevention efforts across borders, adding that ''if we do not cooperate, we would be beaten by the terror network''. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA
Indonesian anti-terror police searching for evidence during a raid at a residential area in Batam last Friday. Six people were arrested on the island last week. The cell leader had planned to fire a rocket at Singapore's Marina Bay.
Indonesian anti-terror police searching for evidence during a raid at a residential area in Batam last Friday. Six people were arrested on the island last week. The cell leader had planned to fire a rocket at Singapore's Marina Bay.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Countries in South-east Asia need to step up cooperation to fight the threat of extremist terrorism, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said at the International Meeting on Counter-Terrorism in Bali.

He called on governments in the region to work together on various fronts, including sharing intelligence and research and analyses on terrorists and security risks.

"We need to establish a common understanding of the security threats facing us, the challenge of home-grown terrorists, including those who are newly radicalised, those who return after fighting in conflict zones, and those who were previously in custody but have since been released," he said.

He added that meetings like yesterday's were important platforms for countries to learn best practices and come up with a set of "agreed approaches which will give greater impetus to the common fight".

The threat of an attack hit home last week when six people were arrested in Batam. The cell leader had planned to fire a rocket at Singapore's Marina Bay.

NATIONAL MOVEMENT

We will actively reach out to all Singaporeans, with our key messages, to: Stay Alert, Stay United and Stay Strong. We have an ambitious programme to knock on the doors of every household within the next few years.

HOME AFFAIRS MINISTER  K. SHANMUGAM, on SG Secure.

"When arrested, they had no rockets, and it was not clear they could have gotten rockets," said Mr Shanmugam. "But the intent was there. Firearms were seized from them."

This episode, recent attacks in Malaysia and Indonesia, and the move by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group to produce a newspaper in Malay demonstrate the "clear threat" facing the region, he added.

Observers note that as ISIS loses territory in the Middle East, it may shift its focus to South-east Asia and step up its activities, he said.

Turning to Singapore, he outlined five components of its counter-terrorism strategy. Two hard security aspects - stepped-up vigilance through patrols and closed-circuit TV coverage, and the response of security forces following an attack - are "necessary but not sufficient", he said.

The other three components - countering extremist ideology, promoting community vigilance and international cooperation - are equally important, he added.

He highlighted the importance of SG Secure, a national movement that will be launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month. It aims to get people to be aware of their security, and stresses the importance of staying united as a society in the event of a terror attack.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2016, with the headline 'Shanmugam: Need to boost cooperation'. Print Edition | Subscribe