Asia-Pacific Making "Significant Progress" in Fighting Terrorism

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - Southeast Asia remains a major front in the global War on Terror, according to the State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism 2005.

Indonesia and the Philippines suffered the most from terrorist activities, having lost citizens and tourists to bombings, according to the report released April 28.

Nonetheless, governments in Southeast Asia were "reliable partners" in the global War on Terror, although they do face "challenges," the State Department said.  For example, the long, irregular coastlines of both Indonesia and the Philippines are hard to monitor and control.

Because terrorism in Southeast Asia is a transnational problem, capacity-building in a regional context is a priority, the report says.  Institutes like the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism in Malaysia and the U.S.-Thailand Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok continued to expand their activities to provide effective counterterrorism training to law enforcement officers throughout the region. 

According to the report, Australia remained a key counterterrorism partner, providing critical assistance to other countries in the region as well as maintaining "a vigorous domestic counterterrorism posture."

Australian police arrested 18 suspected terrorists in Sydney and Melbourne in 2005, enacted comprehensive counterterrorism legislation and strengthened cooperative counterterrorism efforts with its regional partners and allies.  Australia also announced a four-year regional counterterrorism assistance package aimed at countering terrorist links and movements among the countries of maritime Southeast Asia.

The Indonesian government took "strong steps to counter the threats posed by the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiya (JI), which has ties to al-Qaida," the report says.  It jailed JI Emir Abu Bakar Ba'asyir for his involvement in the 2002 Bali bomb attacks that killed 20 people and injured more than 120.  Indonesian police also located and killed in a raid the Malaysian bomb maker Azahari bin Husin.

The government of Thailand, threatened by separatist violence in its Muslim-majority provinces in the south, has maintained an "unwavering commitment to domestic and international counterterrorism efforts," the report says.

"There is no evidence of a direct connection between militants in southern Thailand and international terrorist organizations such as JI and al-Qaida," the report says.  "There is concern, however, that these groups may attempt to capitalize on the increasingly violent situation for their own purposes."

Also earning praise for their counterterrorism efforts were Cambodia, Japan, Malaysia and China.

China - whose citizens have been victims of terrorist acts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Jordan - is increasing its efforts to build its domestic counterterrorism capabilities with a focus on improving security for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the report says.

The State Department prepares the annual Country Reports on Terrorism to meet a congressional requirement for an assessment for countries and groups meeting the criteria set by U.S. law as well as to summarize key developments in the international campaign against terrorism.

The full text of the report is available on the State Department Web site, as is the regional overview (PDF, 25 pages) of East Asia and the Pacific.

For more information on U.S. policies, see Response to Terrorism and East Asia and the Pacific.