While terrorism is not an existential threat to national security in Southeast Asia, it remains a significant regional concern, especially in the Philippines. In terms of casualties, the Philippines has had the highest rate of terrorism-related fatalities in Southeast Asia because it suffers from both left- and right-wing extremism.
This was one of the key points made by Ms Sidney Jones, Director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, at a webinar on 9 April 2021 organised by the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Violence (ICPVTR) at RSIS. Chaired by ICPVTR’s head, Assoc Prof Kumar Ramakrishna, the webinar titled “Evolving Terrorism Threat in Southeast Asia” was the first in ICPVTR’s “The Terrorism Landscape in Southeast Asia” webinar series in 2021.
Ms Jones contended that the Islamic State (IS) is still a threat to Southeast Asia despite decreasing support for the group. IS supporters in the region are committed to conducting violent acts as an expression of their bai’ah (pledge of allegiance) to the group.
Another threat in the region that Ms Jones cautioned against is Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The threat is specific to Indonesia. While the JI threat to the country is not imminent, the network is serious in building up its capabilities for a strike against the Indonesian government.
Ms Jones also highlighted the increasing involvement of women in terror attacks. More women have launched attacks as a result of social media exchanges among themselves than any organisational direction. Ms Jones added that IS in general still holds extremely conservative views on the role of women and only with the recent need to recoup lost ground has it increasingly supported women playing combat roles.
Ms Jones ended her presentation with some policy recommendations for regional governments to tackle the terrorism threat. Among other things, she emphasised the need to address corruption in the security forces, prisons and immigration department, which has enabled terrorists to forge identity cards and travel documents. Additionally, there should be a concerted effort to understand the role of women in terrorist networks.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: