The relentless fight against terrorism

Updated On: Jun 15, 2007

The fight against terrorist organisations in Southeast Asia has received a boost from the arrest of a terrorist leader.

The Indonesian police has confirmed that it has arrested the head of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The National Police spokesman Inspector Gen. Sisno Adiwinoto said fingerprint and DNA analysis had helped police determine the identity of Abu Dujana. Dujana is believed to have emerged as the head of JI following the death of master bomb-maker Azahari Husin in 2005.

Police say the fluent Arabic speaker trained in Afganistan, where he met Osama bin Laden and gained bomb-making and combat experience. He is also believed to have weapons and explosives stockpiled in Sukaharjo, Central Java, and Gresik and Surabaya in East Java.

While the arrest has crippled JI, it will not completely eliminate the movement. The manager of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, John Harrison commented, “JI's ideology and belief system have to be challenged and defeated to a point where you are not going to get people to support it anymore…. This is not going to happen quickly.”

While there is some success in the fighting terrorism in the Southeast Asian region, globally, there is increasing fear from security experts of the possibility of nuclear terrorism.  The United States hosted a meeting of security experts discussing measures to crack down on nuclear trafficking in view of increasingly fears that nuclear materials and other radioactive materials might be acquired by terrorists as they up their ante to cause massive destruction.  The conference is part of the ‘Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism’ announced in July 2006 by US President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Group of Eight summit of industrialised nations.

Amidst the global worry of nuclear terrorism, several Southeast Asian states announced that they would be adopting nuclear energy. Last month, Russia announced that it would be helping Myanmar build a nuclear research reactor. This week, Thailand's largest energy utility, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) announced that it would invest US$6 billion to build 2 nuclear plants to produce 4,000 megawatts of electricity. The plant is expected to start operations in 2020.

Thai Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand explained that Thailand need nuclear power as it is currently over-dependent on natural gas for power generation. 70% of Thai electricity is generated from natural gas. A third of all natural gas used in Thailand is imported. Thailand spent 912 billion baht on energy imports last year, 16 per cent more than the year before. Nuclear energy is also seen to be carbon neutral.

In Indonesia, the central government has also planned to construct a nuclear power plant in stages, to eventually produce 4,000 megawatts. The first phase of the power plant is expected to be completed in 2016 and produces 1,000 megawatts to supply Java, Bali and Madura. This plan has resulted in massive protests in Kudus, Central Java.

The Philippines Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla also announced that the Philippines would be restudying the nuclear power option.

It is unclear how and if these states have the abilities to maintain tight control to prevent the smuggling of possible nuclear wastes or other materials that might be used for bombs. While the primary concern is to obtain energy, these states do not seem to have discussed the security implications of the nuclear power option.

Another security problem in Southeast Asia is that of piracy and safety in the Strait of Malacca. These issues were discussed at the 6th Tri-annual International Maritime Bureau Meeting. Speaking at the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan warned of the dangers that terrorists and extremists can pose to the world if they were to “commandeer a ship transporting LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas) for a suicide mission in the strait”.  “Such an act would devastate Southeast Asia's economic environment and severely disrupt trade….Significant impediments to the flow of oil would be a direct threat to the national security of countries that are highly dependent on it, particularly Japan and South Korea”, he added.

He also made it clear that it is the primary responsibility of the three littoral states, IndonesiaMalaysia and Singapore to keep the Strait open and safe.  The Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Johari Baharum also discouraged other non-ASEAN agencies from conducting enforcement exercises in Southeast Asians as their involvement could complicate security matters.

Singapore, on the other hand, seems to be more open to the idea of other states such as the United States and Japan participating in patrolling the waters to ensure the security. In both issues, the nuclear power option and the security of the Straits of Malacca, the regional states do not appear to share the same threat perception nor is it clear that they have discussed the most appropriate way to tackle these issues at a regional level.


Police announce arrest of terror chief (Jakarta Post, 14 June 2007)

JI mastermind Dujana held (New Straits Times, 14 June 2007)

Jakarta nabs most wanted JI terrorist (Straits Times, 14 June 2007)

New Call for Global Action To Prevent N-terrorism (Straits Times [from Agence France Presse], 13 June 2007)

Thailand to build nuclear plant (Today, 13 June 2007)

Egat ready to pump $6 bn into nuclear power (Nation, 13 June 2007)

Fewer cases of piracy attacks in Malacca straits (New Straits Times, 13 June 2007)

Protesters say no to nuclear power plant (Jakarta Post, 13 June 2007)

Nuclear power is cleaner (Jakarta Post, 13 June 2007)

Gov’t to restudy nuclear power option (Manila Bulletin, 12 June 2007)

Melaka Straits Must Be Kept Safe From Maritime Terrorism, Says IGP (Bernama, 12 June 2007)

Non-Asean agencies must stay out (The Star, 13 June 2007)