Eighteen senior Counter-Terrorism officials from the Asean states were in Singapore earlier this year to participate in a unique programme catering to regional practitioners.
The programme sought to bring together the “best among the professionals” to trade experiences and share best practices with fellow experts in the fight against terror.
They were participants at the Asean Counter-Terrorism Executive Programme, which is jointly organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
This programme was funded under the auspices of the Asean-Japan Counter-Terrorism Dialogue.
To date, Singapore has tabled five proposals at the Dialogue to promote regional counter-terrorism cooperation.
|Mr Tai Wei Shyong, Deputy Secretary (Operations) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, giving a welcome speech to participants of the Asean Counter-Terrorism Executive Programme. PHOTO: Chiez How |
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Tai Wei Shyong, Deputy Secretary (Operations) of MHA, expressed his hope that participants would continue to form a common pool of experts Asean member states and Japan could tap on for advice, training and assistance in capability development.
“This is the most important and valuable outcome of the programme,” he added.
Held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, the five-day programme aims to bring the ten Asean countries together to share experiences and discuss counter terrorism issues at a strategic level.
Experts from the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore were invited to speak during the programme as well.
|Mr Tai Wei Shyong, Deputy Security (Operations) of Ministry of Home Affairs (fourth from left), and Mr Benny Oon, Senior Director, International Cooperation and Partnerships (third from left) with participants of the Asean Counter-Terrorism Executive Programme. PHOTO: Chiez How|
They spoke on terrorism trends and tactics in regional countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Case studies on attacks as well as extremists websites were also discussed, together with operational counter terrorism strategies and response instruments such as counter-intelligence, understanding criminal cartels, rehabilitation and community engagement.
One highlight of the programme was the fire-side chat session with MHA’s Senior Deputy Secretary Mr Khoo Boon Hui, who is also President of Interpol.
Participants were enthused by the insights provided by Mr Khoo on the work of Interpol, the world’s largest international police organisation involving 190 member countries.
|Interpol President and the Senior Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Mr Khoo Boon Hui, spoke about some of Interpol's operations during the fireside chat held on the fourth day of the Asean Counter-Terrorism Executive Programme 2012. PHOTO: Joanne Yan|
Mr Khoo also spoke about the Interpol portal, which had recently been updated with certain features.
“The database on the Interpol portal will include information like fingerprints and DNA, as well as track the loss of official genuine documents with ease,” he added.
This real-time database has proven to be useful.
Some of the fingerprints found on bombs planted in Iraq matched those in the database, and the police forces of member countries were hence able to take action.
Senior practitioners and experts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore also shared information about their countries’ preventive measures and key challenges in dealing with terrorism.
One of the expert speakers, Mr Thomas Koruth Samuel, who is Director of the Research and Publication Division at the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counter-Terrorism, spoke on the topic of youth and terrorism.
“Iraq was known as the first YouTube war where terrorists will actually film things which are happening and immediately upload it on YouTube. And who are the main viewers of YouTube? Young people,” Thomas said.
Most of the terrorists have a perceived sense of injustice and believe that violence is best used to achieve their objective as it creates fear.
However, violence is not the only way to get things done.
“There are alternatives other than violence. Although it is the harder route and it takes time, it is still possible,” he added.
“We have to engage the youth, see them as part of the solution, not solely the problem. We need people who are good with young people,” Mr Koruth added.
A participant from the Philippines, Mr Percival Antolin Rumbaoa, echoed his sentiments and said, “It has to be a joint effort both from those in the security forces as well as educational professionals.”
Mr Rumbaoa has spent 20 years with the police force.
For him, a turning point in his previously nonchalant point of view towards terrorism was his term as a United Nations (UN) civilian police officer with the Personal Protection Office in countries like Kosovo, Africa and East Timor.
From his experience, he thinks it is best to get to the root of the problems as most terrorist problems take root from minor grievances that have escalated beyond control.
“Deterrent methods are better than acting on the problem when it has already happened,” he added.
This workshop also served as a networking session for the Asean Counter-Terrorism practitioners who were meeting one another for the first time.
The participants provided positive feedback on the programme, saying that they would recommend it to their colleagues.
|Mr Kenechanh Phommachack (left), Director of the National Central Bureau, Laos with Mr. Phayvanh Sitthichanh (Right) From Laos PHOTO: Chiez How|
“I hope to be able to learn more about ways to improve the legal system and networks to tackle biological chemical disasters. Although there is a low rate of terrorism in Laos, we must be ever ready,” said Mr Kenechanh Phommachack, Director of the National Central Bureau, Laos.