Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has urged ASEAN countries to cooperate more closely in fighting transnational crime in the region.
Mr Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs and Coordinating Minister for National Security, was speaking at the opening of the 11th ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC).
In Mr Teo's view, drug trafficking, human trafficking and economic crimes are the three highest priority areas for the region. He said these areas should be the focus of cooperation between countries.
Mr Teo said the nature and reach of transnational crime has changed tremendously, due to advances in technology and the ease at which both money and people can move across borders.
"The challenge...in this next decade is to move beyond its current parameters and build shared operational processes and mechanisms, to effectively check the spread of transnational criminal groups. In other words, it is time to 'sharpen the sword' and take the fight to the syndicates on the ground."
Mr Teo hopes the setting up of the Interpol Global Complex or IGC in Singapore, expected to be ready in 2013, will help ASEAN to tap better on regional and international enforcement networks to fight crime.
Mr Teo said each ASEAN state should develop a comprehensive picture of the drivers and levels of transnational crime in their own countries, based on a common set of definitions and methodologies. By sharing this information, ASEAN can build a clearer picture of crime trends across the entire region, and identify what interventions need to be made on the ground.
He also suggested that countries create bilateral or multilateral joint investigation teams to tackle crimes across borders. Countries also need to work towards better understanding the relation between different types of crime as well as the link between international terrorist groups and organised crime cartels.
Report: 11th ASEAN senior officials meeting on transnational crime [XinMSN, 26 July 2011]
Report: Take Fight To Transnational Criminal Groups On Ground - Singapore DPM[Bernama, 26 July 2011]
Mr Teo also urged ASEAN countries to focus on cybercrime as a major transnational criminal problem. He said countries must secure networks and infocomm infrastructure.
Cybercrime has risen in prominence in recent months, with attacks on public and private sector systems across the world. Malaysian government websites were targeted by the Anonymous hacking group in June.
Report: ASEAN needs to tackle cybercrime: DPM Teo [Channel NewsAsia, 26 July 2011]
Report: Singapore hosts Asean crime conference [Straits Times, 26 July 2011]
On the issue of drugs, Mr Teo said heroin continues to be the major drug threat in the region. But he warned of the rising danger of methamphetamine, or "ice" in ASEAN countries.
"The simplicity of its manufacture, availability of inexpensive precursor chemicals, and a diversification of supply routes make trafficking in methamphetamine a serious issue for all Asean member states," said Mr Teo.
In 2009, half of the total global seizures of methamphetamine were from East Asia and South-east Asia. There was also a 30 per cent increase in the seizures of the drug from 2008 to 2009.
Mr Teo cited the World Drug Report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime last month. The report stated that there is large-scale manufacturing, trafficking and consumption of "ice" in the region, and called methamphetamine the "second-most-widely-consumed drug in East Asia and South-east Asia", with manufacturing concentrated mainly in the Philippines, China, Malaysia and Myanmar.
Report: 'Ice' a rising concern for ASEAN [AsiaOne/My Paper, 27 July 2011]
A total of 14 meetings will be held during the five-day ASEAN SOMTC in Singapore, which ends on Friday. Seven dialogue partners including countries such as the US, Russia and China will also share different sets of operating norms and practices during the meetings.
The Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs is hosting the annual meeting.