Patchy counterterrorist results in the region

Updated On: Jun 19, 2007

The successful capture of two top Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) leaders, Zarkasih, believed to be acting amir or overall leader of JI in Indonesia, and the feared Abu Dujana, the commander of JI's military wing by the Indonesian government last week have dominated the headlines.

However, more work needs to be done elsewhere in the region. 

The situation in the Philippines is much less encouraging. The Philippines army recently admitted their failure to detain Dulmatin who was a suspect in the Bali bombing.  Muslim militants and separatists continued to attack public transport system with the most recent bus bombing killing a dozen people.

Adding to the woes is the stalled peace process in the south. The government peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) recently resigned. Secretary Silvestre Afable Jr claimed that he wanted to return to the private sector. Even though the government has been swift to appoint a replacement, a Roman Catholic priest and former president of Notre Dame University , Fr. Eliseo Mercado Afable’s counterpart, the MILF chief negotiator Mohaquer Iqbal described Afable's resignation as a "setback" in the peace process.

Even more worrying is the spate of political killings around the country. On 14 June, the University President of Cavite State University was killed in an ambush by unidentified gunmen.

President Arroyo assured journalists at a press meeting in Malacanang that her government regarded the large number of political killings in the country as a serious issue. She pointed to the formation of the Melo Commission, a group headed by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Melo to investigate the killings.

“Former Justice Melo has provided his initial report; we have made it public. We are in the process of following his recommendations. These include: the creation of special courts; stronger witness protection measures; more money for prosecutors; and investigation to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” Mrs. Arroyo said. She added, “As we have made tough choices to turn around our economy, we will also handle these killings to end them once and for all.”  

The United States and European Union have also sent delegations to monitor the situation. On 16 June, Major General Thomas Crsnko, chief of the US Special Forces Command Airborne visited a military base in Southern Philippines where US troops are helping in the fight against terrorism.

This week, a six member group from the EU will meet government agencies, including the military - which has been blamed for some of the killings - as well as human rights groups and the judiciary.

The European Commission's envoy to Manila, Mr Alistair MacDonald, made it clear the visit will not be another fact-finding mission. Instead, he said, “Our primary focus will be on advice and training, and where we can usefully provide support. The fact remains that the killings continue. The fact also remains that prosecutions and convictions have not been easy.”

Besides Philippines, situation in southern Thailand is worsening fuelling fears that it would become a breeding ground for terrorism.  And southern Thai militants have been blamed earlier by Malaysian police for a small explosion at the Puduraya bus terminal in Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.  An 11-year-old girl was injured when the crude homemade bomb exploded in the terminal on 14 June.  After the initial finger-pointing at towards Southern Thailand, Senior Commissioner from KL Criminal Investigation Department clarified that based on initial investigations, there was no reason to believe that the Thai militants were behind the explosion.  A task force has been set up to probe further into the blast.

Also in Thailand, the government is stepping up efforts to monitor illegal activities in the Andaman Sea. The Thai Third Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Supot Prueksa referred to intelligence reports pointing to the connection between the large number of Burmese Muslims who have illegally slipped into Thailand by sea since 2004 and the intensification of the insurgency in the deep South. He said, “These Rohingya mercenaries, aged between 20 and 40, have a violent past and were ready to take orders to do anything in exchange for money.”  (18 June 2007)


Rooting out terrorists (Jakarta Post, 18 June 2007)

Task force to probe into blast at Pudaraya (New Straits Times, 18 June 2007)

Police reject Thai link in bus depot blast (Straits Times, 18 June 2007)

Bomb the work of amateurs (New Straits Times, 17 June 2007)

Gov't determined to end political killings, go after culprits -- Bunye (Philippines News Agency, 17 June 2007)

Coastline terror threat under control (Bangkok Post, 17 June 2007)

Battling The Piracy Threat (Bangkok Post, 16 June 2007)

EU experts to help Manilatackle political killings (Straits Times, 16 June 2007)

Top US military official visits Southern Philippines (Philippines News Agency, 16 Jun 2007)

Gov’t acts on media killings (Manila Bulletin, 15 June 2007)