Chapter 2. Country Reports: East Asia and Pacific Overview
"Extremist terrorism must not be allowed to undermine our racial and religious harmony. Singaporeans understand that terrorism is a threat to all of us."
--Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
New Year Day's Message
December 31, 2008
Since 2001, the sustained commitment to counter terrorism by the governments in Southeast Asia and their citizens has significantly weakened Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and other regional terrorist groups. The efforts of law enforcement, intelligence, and prosecutors have been bolstered by increased regional security cooperation and committed support from the United States and other international partners. The interdiction of a small, semi-autonomous terrorist cell in Palembang, South Sumatra by Indonesian security forces in July, however, demonstrated the possible reemergence of groups that espouse violent extremist ideologies. Six years after the 2002 Bali attacks, which killed over 200 people, elements of a seriously fractured JI and their adherents retained the intent to destabilize regional security and attack Western and U.S. interests in Southeast Asia. Additionally, the unresolved conflict in the Southern Philippines between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) boiled over late in the year when a carefully-negotiated peace accord failed to win approval from the Philippine Supreme Court. This led to a renewal of violence in Mindanao as MILF insurgents perpetrated bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings aimed at government forces and in some cases the general civilian population.
In November, the Government of Indonesia executed three of the 2002 Bali bombers: Amrozi bin Nurhasym, Imam Samudra, and Ali Gufron (aka Mukhlas). The executions provoked no serious security incidents despite calls by JI co-founder Abu Bakar Ba’asyir for retaliatory attacks. Additionally, in January, the Government of Indonesia formally charged the ten suspected members of the Palembang Cell, who were arrested in July. Such trials of suspected violators of terrorism laws in Indonesia have demonstrated Indonesia’s commitment to due process in all stages of the criminal justice process and have increased the credibility of Indonesia’s counterterrorism policies.
The U.S. dual strategy of politically supporting the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF while providing developmental assistance in areas at risk for terrorist recruitment continued to marginalize the few remaining ASG and JI terrorists in the southern Philippines. Philippine military and law enforcement agencies conducted intensive civil-military and internal security operations to eliminate terrorist safe havens in the Sulu Archipelago and central Mindanao. JI bomber Umar Patek and several ASG operatives remained on the run, probably on Jolo Island.
In February, Mas Selemat Kastari, the former leader of a JI cell in Singapore, escaped from Singaporean detention. Despite a massive manhunt, Singaporean authorities failed to locate and re-capture Kastari. Other prominent terrorists, such as key JI operatives Noordin Mohammad Top, Dulmatin, and Umar Patek, also remained at large in the region.
Malaysia continued to use the Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain terrorist suspects without bringing them to trial. At year’s end, Malaysian authorities held 16 terrorist suspects linked to JI and 13 linked to Darul Islam – some of whom were undergoing a program of rehabilitation –under ISA detention. On average, the Malaysian government has held suspected terrorists and suspected terrorist supporters in ISA detention for two to six years. Over the past year, the government released 32 detainees, including 13 terrorist suspects linked to JI and six linked to Darul Islam.
Thai and USG officials have long expressed concern that transnational terrorist groups could establish links with southern Thailand-based separatist groups.1 However, there were no indications that transnational terrorist groups were directly involved in the violence in the south, and there was no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai separatist groups and regional terrorist networks.
Despite a series of violent incidents – none of which have been tied to terrorists – and threats leading up to the Beijing Olympics, the Games were held successfully without episodes of terrorism. Starting in June, representatives of a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) posted videos on the Internet taking credit for violent incidents in China and threatening to strike the Olympic Games. TIP is believed to be another name for the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a UN-listed terrorist organization.
On October 11, the United States rescinded the designation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a state sponsor of terrorism in accordance with criteria set forth in U.S. law, including a certification that the Government of North Korea had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period and the provision by the government of assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
As in 2007, institutes like the United States-Thailand International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, the Australian-Indonesian Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), and the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT) in Malaysia sought to expand their efforts to provide effective counterterrorism training to law enforcement officers throughout the region. Multilateral fora, including the UN Security Council's Counterterrorism Committee (UNCTC), the G8's Roma-Lyon Group and Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), also promoted regional counterterrorism cooperation.
Australia maintained its position as a regional leader in the fight against terrorism and worked to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region's counterterrorism capacity through a range of bilateral and regional initiatives in fora such as APEC, ASEAN ARF, and the Pacific Island Forum. Japan also continued to assist counterterrorism capacity building in developing countries through seminars, workshops, and training. In October, the United States, Japan, and Australia convened for the fourth annual session of the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue Counterterrorism Consultations in Washington.
Australia maintained a leading position in regional counterterrorism efforts. Along with Japan and the U.S., Australia worked to strengthen regional cooperation on border, transport, and maritime security. In April and May, Australia conducted trilateral regional workshops to identify and disrupt terrorist cash courier operations and to respond to bioterrorism. These events were capped by the annual U.S.-Australia-Japan Trilateral Counterterrorism Strategic Dialogue in October. In September, the Government of Australia announced the appointment of William (Bill) Paterson as the country's new Ambassador for Counterterrorism.
In 2008, the Australian government appointed a National Security Adviser (NSA) to help the Prime Minister on a range of policy matters, including countering terrorism and overseeing the implementation of national security policy arrangements. The National Intelligence Coordination Committee (NICC) chaired by the NSA will ensure that national intelligence efforts are fully and effectively integrated across governmental agencies.
In February, the Lombok Treaty between Australia and Indonesia came into full force, providing a framework for bilateral law enforcement cooperation, particularly against human trafficking, trade in illicit drugs, and terrorism. The treaty marked a continuation of Australian efforts to build Indonesian police capacity, such as the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), which plays an important role in fostering cooperation among Southeast Asian agencies involved in counterterrorism, the commencement of joint legal training programs in July, the renewal of the counterterrorism Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and inaugural counterterrorism consultations that were held in May 2008. The treaty marked increased bilateral cooperation in law enforcement, border control, maritime and transport security, legal assistance, financial monitoring, defense, and management of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorist threats.
In May, Australia and the Philippines held high-level counterterrorism consultations, which reviewed capacity building and operational collaboration, and agreed on broad priorities and directions for future cooperation. In June, Australia extended for a further six months the assignment of an Australian official to Cambodia to assist the Cambodian Government on counterterrorism capabilities. Also in June, Australia expanded its bilateral counterterrorism talks to include first round talks with Russia. In December, Australia signed a counterterrorism MOU with Bangladesh, the 14th such bilateral agreement concluded by Australia.
Following the September bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Australia announced plans to expand its counterterrorism efforts with Pakistan, including possible provision of law enforcement assistance, counter-insurgency training, and technical assistance.
Australian multilateral engagement continued in forums such as the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Pacific Island Forum and the G8 Counterterrorism Action Group.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) received further funding to expand its investigative and specialist training, currently delivered to regional law enforcement partners through facilities like JCLEC. Funding was targeted toward:
- conducting offshore exercises and training with regional partners,
- increasing the number of counterterrorism advisers working in AFP's international liaison officer network,
- introducing to high priority locations a custom-built Case Management and Information System developed for use in overseas jurisdictions, and
- enhancing specialist forensic and technical training for law enforcement agencies in the region and in theaters of war, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The AFP's International Deployment Group deploys numerous officers overseas in counterterrorism technical assistance and operational/liaison roles. The AFP Operational Response Group was designed to respond on short notice to emerging law and order issues and to conduct stabilization operations to head off lawless situations that terrorists could exploit. Australia continued to provide legal drafting assistance to regional states seeking to adopt international conventions and protocols against terrorism.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) reported that, within Australia, a small but significant minority of the Islamic community holds or has held extremist views. An even smaller minority was prepared to act in support of them, including by advocating violence, providing logistic or propaganda support to extremists, or traveling abroad to train with terrorist groups or participate in violent activities. Under Australia's Criminal Code, 18 groups are on the Listing of Terrorist Organizations. The Attorney General reaffirmed three in November: the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jamiat ul-Ansar (JuA), and al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI).
During 2007-08, legal proceedings commenced against a number of individuals charged with terrorism offences, and in one trial, convictions were handed down by a jury in Melbourne. Yet, the nation has also required that the government review its 2005 terrorist legislation in 2010 in light of a need for protection of guaranteed rights. Because of the deportation of an innocent relative of a terrorist, there was felt a need to insure that the unwarranted deportation of the innocent would not occur again.
The Australian Transaction Reports Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which monitored financial transactions, served as the national Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing (AML/CTF) regulator, with supervisory, monitoring, and enforcement functions over a diverse range of industry sectors. A new set of regulatory reforms, introduced in draft legislation made public in August 2007, was heading for legislative enactment. These included new regulations regarding real estate, precious gems and stones, and specified legal accounting and trust services. AUSTRAC continued to seek and fund additional staff and technical capabilities, and establish identity security strike teams to investigate and prosecute people and syndicates involved in manufacturing false identities.
Australia supported a range of activities promoting tolerance and mutual understanding, and countering extremist ideology and propaganda, among communities in the region. In June, the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Corrective Services provided targeted training in Australia for a range of senior Indonesian corrections officials. Australia also conducted research in Indonesia on Indonesian popular attitudes toward democracy, politically motivated violence, extremist ideology, and pluralism. Australian authorities also facilitated meetings with Southeast Asian academics, journalists, and community leaders to discuss these issues.
Australia exchanged information with the United States on terrorists using the Terrorist Screening Centre as the operational hub for encounter management, as well as in APEC's Regional Movement Alert System. Both programs enhanced our joint ability to disrupt travel by known and suspected terrorists.
The Australian Defense Force has deployed 1,090 personnel to Afghanistan and 120 troops to Iraq.
Bilateral relations between Burma and the United States remained strained. The government defined almost all anti-regime activities as "acts of terrorism," making little distinction between peaceful political dissent and violent attacks by insurgents or criminals. The Burmese government was quick to link dissident groups with terrorist organizations to justify scrutiny and disruption of their activities.
The Burmese government characterized a series of bomb blasts in Rangoon and other parts of Burma as subversive acts, "committed by a group of insurgent destructive elements who wanted to disturb and destroy stability of the state." However, authorities have not presented credible evidence to support these accusations. Requests by the U.S. Embassy to view either the scenes of the blasts or fragments of the explosive devices were consistently denied. There is no evidence of any terrorist groups targeting American interests in the country.
Cambodia’s political leadership demonstrated a strong commitment to aggressive legal action against terrorists and to increase its counterterrorism investigative capability, but its ability to investigate potential terrorist activities was limited by a lack of training and resources. Despite this shortfall, the Royal Government of Cambodia to date has fully cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
Conditions in Cambodia – such as porous borders, endemic corruption, massive poverty, high unemployment, a poor education system, and disaffected elements within the Cham Muslim population, which makes up approximately five percent of the population – are conditions that terrorists could exploit. Although the Cham were not generally politically active, the Cambodian government was aware of the possibility that foreign terrorists might use Cham areas as safe havens. For example, Hambali, a senior Jemaah Islamiya and al-Qa’ida operative accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings, took refuge in a Muslim school in Cambodia in 2002-2003.
Despite these challenges, Cambodia remained committed to strengthening its counterterrorism capability. Cambodia's National Counterterrorism Center, a policy-level decision making body established in 2005 and chaired by the prime minister, continued to improve cooperation and information sharing among Cambodia’s security agencies. In January, the Cambodian Government established five departments under the secretariat of its proposed National Counterterrorism Committee (NCTC) to coordinate counterterrorism efforts. The Ministry of the Interior imposed strict controls on the use of weapons, explosive devices, chemical substances, and radioactive materials in Cambodia.
The Cambodian government made notable progress in strengthening its counterterrorist finance regime. In May, the Governor of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) signed an announcement of a Prakas2 of the Law on Anti Money-Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), promulgated in June 2007. The AML/CFT legal regime included the January 29 establishment of a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which operated within the framework of the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC). The FIU monitors suspicious transactions and interfaces with the Ministry of Interior’s Financial Crimes Investigation Unit. Initial efforts to develop the AML/CFT regime focused on the banking sector, and the NBC issued Circulars and Prakas to regulate the financial sector. The 2007 Law on Counterterrorism and the AML/CFT Law introduced a comprehensive asset-freezing system. Implementation began in 2008.
With U.S. assistance, Cambodian authorities monitored computerized border control systems at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, and at the land border crossing of Poipet and Koh Kong. U.S. officials also provided training to Cambodian authorities on crime scene investigation and methods for countering money laundering.
The Cambodian Government also cooperated with other regional governments on counterterrorism issues. Australia conducted a one-week work workshop on dissemination and implementation of counterterrorism law, as well as a workshop on implementing money laundering law. Officials from the Cambodian government attended workshops in China, India, Malaysia, and Singapore dealing with cross-border crimes and terrorism.
In May, the UN Counterterrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate (CTED) conducted an on-site visit to Cambodia to monitor Cambodia’s implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373. The committee’s comprehensive final report included recommendations for improvements, and outlined Cambodia’s technical assistance requirements to meet or exceed its counterterrorism commitments and goals.
China increased counterterrorism cooperation with the United States and other nations both leading up to and following the August Olympic Games in Beijing. In March, China hosted the U.S.-China Counterterrorism Dialogue aimed at increasing cooperation on counterterrorism. China also held counterterrorism exercises with neighboring countries, including Thailand and India. As a founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China has made counterterrorism one of the SCO’s main objectives. China continued to participate in the Container Security Initiative (CSI) with U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors stationed at the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen.
In October, the U.S. and China marked the ten year anniversary of the Joint Liaison Group (JLG) on Law Enforcement Cooperation with a plenary meeting in Washington, DC. The seven working groups of the JLG are aimed at increasing policy dialogue and improving cooperation writ large between U.S. and Chinese law enforcement agencies.
Although implementation of the Yangshan Deep Water Megaports project was underway by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the General Administration of China Customs (GACC) told DOE that it would increase the number of scanners used in the project. In October, GACC told DOE that contacts on Megaports would be suspended until further notice due to unrelated issues. The status of implementation of the Yangshan Megaports project was unknown at year’s end.
China's cash-based economy and robust cross-border trade contributed to a high volume of difficult-to-track cash transactions. Though mechanisms were in place for tracking financial transactions in the formal banking sector, the large size of the informal economy, prevalence of counterfeit identity documents, and large numbers of underground banks presented major obstacles to law enforcement authorities. According to International Monetary Fund statistics, money laundering in China may account for as much as $24 billion per year.
Terrorist financing is a criminal offense in China, and the government has the authority to identify, freeze, and seize terrorist financial assets, but laws defining terrorist financing were not yet consistent with international standards, according to reporting by the Financial Action Task Force. China's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), housed within the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), worked closely with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) in the United States to develop its capabilities. In addition to its domestic collection and analysis activities, the FIU exchanged information with foreign FIUs on a case-by-case basis. Coordination in this area could be further enhanced through China’s membership in the Egmont Group, an umbrella body that coordinates the activities of over 100 FIUs worldwide. Though China has applied for membership in the Egmont Group, domestic political concerns about Taiwan's participation in the organization have reportedly hampered membership discussions.
China expanded its role in international efforts to combat terrorist finance and money laundering by becoming a full member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in June 2007. Since 2004, China has also been a member of the Eurasian Group (EAG), a FATF-style regional grouping that includes China, Russia, and several Central Asian countries.
Despite a series of violent incidents and threats leading up to the Beijing Olympics, the Games were held successfully without terrorist incidents. Starting in June, representatives of a group calling itself the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) posted videos on the Internet taking credit for violent incidents in China and threatening to strike the Olympic Games. TIP is believed to be an another name for the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party (ETIP), also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which was added by UN 1267 Committee to its Consolidated List of individuals/entities associated with Usama bin Laden, al-Qa’ida, or the Taliban on September 11, 2002. Among the incidents TIP took credit for was a series of bus bombings in Kunming, Yunnan Province that killed two people in July. In March, the Chinese government claimed that flight attendants foiled a plot to detonate a homemade explosive on a flight from Urumqi, Xinjiang to Beijing by subduing a female passenger.
Human rights organizations have accused China of using counterterrorism as a pretext to suppress Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group which makes up the majority of the population within the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of western China. In the lead up to the Olympics, China tightened security in Xinjiang, instituting road checkpoints and arresting people it suspected of being linked to terrorism. In July, the Urumqi, XUAR Public Security Bureau in Urumqi declared that it detained 82 terrorists during the first six months of the year while police in Kashgar claimed to have rounded up 12 terrorist groups.
Security forces maintained a high-level of vigilance both in Xinjiang and throughout the country during the Olympics. In spite of this, a series of violent incidents did occur in Xinjiang during the Olympics which the Chinese government has blamed on terrorist organizations. In the most violent reported incident, 17 People's Armed Police Border Guards were killed on August 4 when assailants attacked them with a vehicle, homemade bombs, and knives. Formally established in 2002, the FBI Legal Attaché Office in Beijing bolstered U.S.-China cooperation on counterterrorism investigations. China provided substantive intelligence in some cases, but more work remained to be done in terms of the depth and overall responsiveness to U.S. requests. Another incident in Xinjiang seven days later resulted in two deaths when a series of homemade bombs were detonated in the remote Xinjiang town of Kuqa.
Hong Kong's position as a major transit point for cargo, finances, and people and its open trade and financial regime made it a potential site for money laundering and terrorist financing activities. The high level of cooperation and the successful implementation of the Container Security Initiative (CSI) by Hong Kong Customs officials received continued praise from visiting USG delegations, which described it as a model for CSI implementation. The Hong Kong government extended the Strategic Freight Initiative (SFI) pilot project, originally scheduled to run through April 2008 for an additional year.
Hong Kong law enforcement agencies provided full support and cooperation to their overseas counterparts in tracing financial transactions suspected of being linked to terrorist activities.
Hong Kong actively participated in various anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing initiatives, including the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group (APG) on Money Laundering. Hong Kong is a member of the Egmont Group, reporting through its Joint Financial Intelligence Unit (JFIU), operated by Hong Kong Police and the Customs and Excise Department. The results of Hong Kong's 2007 FATF and APG mutual evaluation were announced in June 2008. In response to recommendations in the report, Hong Kong authorities are expected to propose legislation to increase supervision of money changers and remittance agents, but have made no plans to establish reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
The Macau Special Administrative Region is a member of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) and completed a mutual evaluation of its Anti-Money Laundering Regime in 2007. In response to recommendations contained in the report, Macau authorities have taken steps to improve compliance with suspicious transactions reporting requirements in banks and casinos, but the threshold reporting limits remain well above international norms. Macau's Financial Intelligence Office (FIO) remained a temporary body, although its staffing continued to increase. Macau has not proposed establishing reporting requirements for cross-border currency movements.
The Government of Macau continued to exchange information with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and counterparts in mainland China. Additionally, Macau cooperated internationally in counterterrorism efforts, through INTERPOL and other security-focused organizations within the Asia Pacific Region, and considered information sharing mechanisms that would enable it to join the Egmont Group.
Indonesia experienced its third consecutive year without a major terrorist attack while the Government of Indonesia continued to build a legal and law enforcement environment conducive to fighting terrorism within its borders. The Indonesian government's counterterrorism efforts across law enforcement and judicial sectors drastically reduced the ability of terrorist groups, such as Jemaah Islamiya (JI), to plan and carry out attacks. Arrests in South Sumatra and Jakarta demonstrated that JI-affiliated individuals and groups, as well as other radical institutions, such as the Komite Aksi Penanggulangan Akibat Krisis (the Crisis Management Committee (KOMPAK)), remained a security threat, but with reduced ability to carry out attacks.
The Indonesian National Police (INP) used information gained from suspects arrested last year to maintain tight surveillance over suspected militant strongholds. In July, the INP raided a home in Palembang, South Sumatra, capturing ten suspected terrorists and a small cache of explosives. At the time of the arrests, the men were allegedly plotting an attack on a cafe frequented by non-Muslims in a resort town in Sumatra. Members of the group have also been accused of killing an Indonesian teacher in 2007 and of attempting to kill a Catholic priest in 2005.
In October, a raid on a house in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta, led to the capture of five suspects and another small cache of explosives. The Jakarta suspects were connected to KOMPAK, which in the past had provoked militancy in Poso, Sulawesi, and to Darul Islam, a long-standing extremist Islamic group with some militant strains. Both raids demonstrated INP successes in interdicting terrorist operations. The United States worked to build the investigative support for and forensic capabilities of the INP through numerous developmental programs.
The Antiterrorism Assistance Program (ATA) continued to provide tactical and investigative training, equipment and technical assistance to the INP’s elite counterterrorism units, Detachment 88. Regional Detachment 88s, working with other specialized factions of the INP, have participated in operations that lead to the arrest and successful prosecution of terrorist suspects in the past few years. As a result of ATA’s train-the-trainer initiative, INP instructors now have the instructional skill sets necessary to conduct all Detachment 88 tactical training.
The Attorney General's Task Force on Terrorism and Transnational Crime successfully prosecuted terrorists, and the U.S. Department of Justice worked with Indonesian prosecutors to enhance the prosecutorial capacity of the task force. In April, acting JI Emir Ustad Syahroni (aka Zarkasih) and senior JI operative Abu Dujana (aka Ainul Bahri), were sentenced to 15 years in prison each for violating the 2003 counterterrorism law. Zarkasih, as acting JI Emir, was one of the most senior JI leaders ever arrested. Dujana, also an Afghanistan-veteran and JI military leader, had been involved in several JI attacks. In addition to handing down the sentences, the judges said JI was a terrorist organization, laying the legal basis for the Indonesian government to ban JI in the future. In November, Abu Dujana testified on behalf of the prosecution in the terrorist trials of Dr. Argus Purwantoro and Abu Husna. Additionally, the Task Force successfully prosecuted 12 other JI members. The court sentenced five JI members for aiding and abetting Abu Dujana and Zarkasih to between seven and eight years of prison each. The court sentenced six other members of JI’s military wing to eight to ten years each in prison. The Government of Indonesia formally charged the ten suspected terrorists who were arrested in July. The Attorney General’s Terrorism and Transnational Crime Task Force led the prosecutions in the trials, which were being held in the Central Jakarta District Court. The AGO Task Force on Terrorism and Transnational Crime has successfully prosecuted 43 terrorists, including 26 JI members, since September 2006.
Other Indonesian legal institutions took a hard line against terrorists. In October, the Constitutional Court rejected a last-ditch appeal by the Bali bombers of their death sentences and upheld that death by firing squad was constitutional. Also in October, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights did not include sentence remissions for convicted terrorists in its annual Eid holiday remissions list.
In November, the Government of Indonesia executed three of the 2002 Bali bombers, Amrozi bin Nurhasym, Imam Samudra, and Ali Gufron (aka Mukhlas). The three had been convicted for planning and carrying out the October 2002 bombings in Bali, which killed over 200 people. There were no serious incidents following the executions, and the public reaction was calm, despite public calls by JI co-founder Abu Bakar Ba’asyir for retaliatory attacks.
The Indonesian government made genuine efforts to develop an effective anti-money laundering system for investigations and prosecutions in compliance with certain provisions in UNSCR 1267 and 1373. Indonesian police froze terrorists’ financial assets uncovered during investigations. However, the Government of Indonesia had yet to demonstrate the political will to implement all requirements under UNSCR 1267. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Mutual Evaluation Report released in July noted that although Indonesia made significant progress in recent years with its implementation of anti-money laundering measures, relatively little implementation of countering terrorist finance measures has occurred.
USAID promoted capacity-building to the Financial Crimes Transaction and Analysis Center (PPATK) and related governmental agencies through its Financial Crimes Prevention Project (FCPP), a multi-year program, now concluded, which provided technical advisors and policy support to develop an effective and credible anti-money laundering and terrorist finance regime. FCPP assistance included the drafting of a National Anti-Money Laundering Strategy adopted by the President in 2007, to develop a comprehensive asset forfeiture law (that remained in progress), and certification of Indonesian government officials as anti-money-laundering specialists and fraud examiners. The number of Suspicious Transaction Reports received increased from 10 per month in 2002 to over 811 per month in 2008 (through October); these reports led to 19 prosecutions during the period. One had a terrorist component, and the strengthened financial oversight improved the tracking of potential terrorist financial transactions.
The INP continued its program to de-radicalize convicted terrorists. The program identified individuals who might be open to more moderate teachings and focused on providing spiritual support to the men and on providing modest financial support to their families. The program aimed to reduce terrorist recruitment inside prisons. Based on the success of the INP de-radicalization program, the Indonesian Department of Corrections also decided to undertake a prisoner de-radicalization program. The Directorate General for prisons proposed that the creation of a set of guidelines for the handling of terrorist prisoners would improve security and surveillance of the prisoners and encourage prisoners to not resort to violence to carry out their religious beliefs.
Though Indonesia's counterterrorism efforts have been impressive and its capacity to fight terrorism within its borders has improved steadily, continued vigilance is needed. The arrests in Palembang and North Jakarta demonstrated that militant networks remained partially intact and that groups continued to stockpile explosives for potential operations. Malaysian JI operative and recruiter Noordin Mohammed Top, who is suspected of involvement in every anti-Western terrorist attack in Indonesia since 2002, remained at large.
Japan bolstered its border security and enhanced national counterterrorism measures in coordination with the United States. Japanese immigration officials strengthened their capability to identify suspicious travelers upon entry into Narita International Airport through fingerprinting and facial recognition technology. Using the Biometric Immigration Control System, officials denied entry to roughly 860 travelers during the year for offenses such as prior deportation and fake passports. In July, the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s International Counterterrorism Cooperation Division extended the pilot Immigration Advisory Program with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for one additional year. The program, which embeds DHS officers at Narita, was viewed by the Japanese government as an effective way to prevent improperly documented air passengers from boarding U.S.-bound flights. Tokyo also worked to ensure the integrity of Japanese travel documents to reduce the risk of travelers using fake passports under the expanded VISA Waiver Program.
Japanese authorities collaborated with U.S. officials to increase U.S. access to database records and fingerprints of known or suspected terrorists. As a VISA Waiver Program country, Japan held discussions with U.S. counterparts to widen database and biometric record exchanges on known and suspected terrorists under Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-6. The Japanese Government also educated travelers on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization through media spots and briefings to major domestic travel agencies.
Japan likewise took steps to strengthen port and shipping security. Under the Container Security Initiative, Japanese authorities worked with U.S. officials embedded at Japanese ports to review ship manifests and to screen suspicious containers. Japan and the United States agreed in July to launch a pilot project under the Megaports Initiative Program, which provides for scanning of containers to detect radiological material. Japan was in the process of procuring necessary equipment, such as radiation portal monitors. Japan also continued collaboration with the U.S. on science and technology for homeland security through the U.S.-Japan Framework Initiative for a Safe and Secure Society.
Inside Japan, the NPA and the Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) continued to monitor the activities of Aum Shinrikyo, renamed Aleph, and its splinter group, Hikari no Wa. In December, PSIA filed a request with the Public Security Examination Commission, a Justice Ministry-affiliated decision-making board, to maintain surveillance of Aleph and Hikari no Wa for an additional three years. PSIA has monitored Aum since 2000 under the Organization Control Law, a measure that allows the Agency to conduct on-site facility inspections and to obtain quarterly operational reports from the group. Both groups continued to perpetuate the ideology of Aum founder and sarin gas attack planner Chizuo Matsumoto, aka Shoko Asahara. PSIA inspections revealed that many original Aum members continued to hold leadership positions in the groups, and that Aum facilities maintained portrait photos and video teachings of Asahara.
Japan also reached beyond its borders to fight terrorism. Japan is the second largest contributor to Iraq reconstruction, with $1.5 billion in grants, $3.5 billion in concessionary loans, and $6.9 billion in debt relief. Japanese Air Self Defense Force transport aircraft operated out of Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom but ended its mission in December. Japan remained an active partner in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and a key international contributor to Afghan stabilization and reconstruction. Japan has pledged more than $2 billion in reconstruction aid since 2002 and continued construction on the 114 kilometer stretch of the southern ring road between Kandahar and Herat. The Maritime Self Defense Force continued to conduct refueling operations in support of OEF in the Indian Ocean and has provided more than $150 million of fuel to U.S. and coalition vessels since 2003.
In October, Japan participated in the fourth annual U.S.-Japan-Australia trilateral strategic dialogue on counterterrorism, as part of the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, which aimed to coordinate regional activities. Japanese officials chaired a specialist working group on border security and took part in discussions on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear weapons (CBRN), law enforcement capacity building, and counter-radicalization.
Japan assisted counterterrorism capacity building in developing countries through seminars, workshops, and training. In January, Japan hosted the Seminar on Promotion of Accession to International Counterterrorism Conventions and Protocols for the fifth consecutive year. Tokyo promoted information sharing and provided implementation guidance to participants including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In May, Japan joined the United States, Australia, and the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counterterrorism at the Southeast Asian Bioterrorism Workshop in Kuala Lumpur to augment the crisis management and counter-CBRN capabilities of several ASEAN participants. Japan also assisted third country law enforcement personnel by dispatching experts and accepting trainees. The Japanese Coast Guard (JCG), for example, provided capacity building services and training seminars to authorities from states that border the Strait of Malacca. Since 2002, Japan has offered technical assistance to support local police in Indonesia and has provided training to coast guard counterparts from the Philippines. Beyond Southeast Asia, Japan dispatched three JCG members to Oman and Yemen in December to assist local officials in addressing piracy concerns in waters off the Horn of Africa.
Japan contributed to counterterrorism capacity building through membership in multilateral fora. In April, Japan participated in the Sixth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Counterterrorism Conference, where members shared threat assessments and discussed ways to increase counterterrorism capacity-building. During the ASEM Summit in October, Japan joined other members in condemning terrorism and reaffirming commitment to the UN Global Counterterrorism Strategy. Under Japan’s G8 presidency, Japan issued calls to improve information sharing, strengthen the security of land, sea, and air transportation and maintain momentum on the G8 Counterterrorism Action Group. Also under Japan’s stewardship, participants held the G8 Bioterrorism Experts Group workshop in the United States (May) and in Germany (June).
Japan undertook measures to combat terrorist financing. Under the Law for Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds, Japan expanded the scope of businesses and professions under the previous law’s jurisdiction. Under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, Japanese financial institutions must confirm the identity of customers sending 100,000 yen or more overseas. For domestic remittances, financial institutions must identify the originators of wire transfers over 100,000 yen. To help stem the flow of terrorist financing to al-Qa’ida and the Taliban, Japan also took steps to freeze assets of individuals and entities listed under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Japan became the 22nd country to undergo a comprehensive Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Mutual Evaluation; it had difficulty meeting FATF recommendations specific to financial institutions. FATF made a number of findings regarding Japan’s illicit finance practices, including the low number of money laundering prosecutions (225 in 2006). It noted that Japan’s established mechanism for freezing terrorist assets did not cover the potential use of domestic funds or other means of support for listed terrorist entities and did not allow Japan to freeze terrorist funds expeditiously. FATF also found that Japanese law had no requirements for financial institutions to establish and maintain procedures, policies, and internal controls to prevent illicit finance.
Republic of Korea
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) demonstrated excellent law enforcement and intelligence capabilities to combat terrorism. South Korean immigration and law enforcement agencies had an excellent record of tracking suspicious individuals entering their territory and reacting quickly to thwart potential terrorist acts. In August, the South Korean Government started issuing e-passports to ordinary citizens to further protect the identities of lawful travelers and to help prevent terrorists from using counterfeit passports. South Korea agreed on a mechanism to exchange terrorist screening information with the United States as part of Seoul’s successful effort to join the Visa Waiver Program. Seoul reviewed and strengthened its emergency response plan and also further tightened its legislative framework and administrative procedures to combat terrorist financing.
South Korea supported U.S. counterterrorism goals in Afghanistan, maintained a military contingent in Iraq through December, and led a Coalition Provincial Reconstruction Team in Irbil Province. In October, South Korea’s Ambassador for Counterterrorism visited Washington to meet with U.S. counterterrorism officials to discuss means of further strengthening bilateral cooperation. In addition, South Korea worked closely with other foreign partners and played a constructive role in improving regional counterterrorism capabilities. Seoul continued to participate in the counterterrorism activities of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Asia-Europe Meeting. The Korea Overseas International Cooperation Agency hosted counterterrorism training and capacity-building programs for regional partners in forensic science, prevention of money laundering, and cyber security.
North Korea (DPRK)
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987. On October 11, the United States rescinded the designation of the DPRK as a state sponsor of terrorism in accordance with criteria set forth in U.S. law, including a certification that the government of North Korea had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period and the provision by the government of assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.
Four Japanese Red Army (JRA) members who participated in a jet hijacking in 1970 continued to live in the DPRK. On June 13, the Government of Japan announced that the DPRK had agreed to cooperate in handing over the remaining members of the JRA involved in the hijacking.
The Japanese government continued to seek a full accounting of the fate of 12 Japanese nationals believed to have been abducted by DPRK state entities. The DPRK admitted to abducting eight of these individuals but claimed they have since died; the DPRK denied having abducted the other four individuals. On August 12, Japan and the DPRK agreed on steps towards the eventual resolution to this issue. The DPRK has not yet implemented its commitment to reopen its investigations into the abductions, however. Since 2002, five other abductees have been repatriated to Japan.
Since 2002, the Government of Laos has consistently denounced international terrorism and expressed a willingness to cooperate with the international community on counterterrorism. While domestic opposition elements have in the past employed terrorist tactics, such as ambushing civilian buses as recently as 2003 and bombing civilian targets as recently as 2004, Lao officials at many levels saw international terrorism as an issue of only marginal relevance to Laos. They believed that Laos, as a small and neutral country, would not be targeted or exploited by international terrorists.
Laos does not have a separate counterterrorism law, but the Lao judicial system was equipped to prosecute acts of terrorism as crimes under the Lao criminal code, and Laotian officials have amended the criminal code to strengthen counterterrorism sanctions. Still, a 2006 UN-sponsored counterterrorism workshop illustrated shortcomings and vagaries in the theoretical application of the Lao criminal code to deal with terrorism-related crimes, so successful prosecution under these laws is not assured. These shortcomings remained unresolved.
Laos' border security was weak; border officials could not effectively control access to the country at any of the country’s border checkpoints. Border crossing along the Mekong River into Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia could be accomplished easily and without detection. Border delineation remained poor in more remote sections of the country, especially along its land borders with Vietnam and China; it was likely that unmonitored border crossings by locals occurred on a daily basis. Since September 11, 2001, Lao authorities have strengthened airport security, and airport security forces have participated in U.S.-supported security seminars to raise their standards, but security procedures at land immigration points remained lax compared with those of most other countries in the region. In addition, official Lao identity documents, including passports and ID cards, were easy to obtain.
In accordance with its obligations under UNSCR 1373, the Bank of Laos vetted government and commercial bank holdings for possible terrorist assets, as identified by U.S.-provided lists of terrorist organizations and individuals, and issued freeze orders for assets of organizations and individuals named on these lists. However, the Bank has yet to require the freezing of assets of individuals and entities included on the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee consolidated list.
Lao authorities issued orders limiting the amount of cash that could be withdrawn from local banks or carried into or out of the country and strengthened reporting requirements of state and privately owned commercial banks. Banking regulation remained extremely weak, however, and the banking system was vulnerable to money laundering and other illegal transactions.
The police forces in Malaysia, who fall under the authority of the Malaysian Home Ministry, conducted all of the country’s counterterrorist investigations and operations. Amendments to five different pieces of legislation – the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the Penal Code, the Subordinate Courts Act, the Courts of Judicature Act, and the Criminal Procedure Code – enabled Malaysia to accede to the UN International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism in 2007. To date, however, Malaysia has not initiated prosecution of any terrorist suspects using these amended laws, instead relying on its Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain terrorist suspects without bringing them to trial.
As of December 2008, Malaysian authorities held 16 terrorist suspects linked to Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and 13 linked to Darul Islam (DI), some of whom were undergoing a program of rehabilitation, in ISA detention. On average, the Malaysian government has held suspected terrorists and suspected terrorist supporters in ISA detention for two to six years. However, allegations that the Malaysian government has used the ISA to detain some persons for political reasons, rather than security concerns, placed pressure on Kuala Lumpur to amend or abolish the ISA. In 2008 the Malaysian government released 32 ISA detainees, including 13 terrorist suspects linked to JI and six linked to DI. Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, in confirming the most recent release of the detainees, was quoted in the press as stating that they were no "longer a threat."
The Malaysian Government engaged with its neighbors on issues related to counterterrorism and transnational crime, and continued to operate the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT). The Center has facilitated the training of Malaysian security officials, but has done less to identify forward-looking or regional counterterrorism priorities. SEARCCT is seeking to expand its mission portfolio to include youth outreach and prison rehabilitation.
Malaysian mediators continued to work in the southern Philippines to help end the conflict between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), although on November 30, Malaysia withdrew its remaining participants from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) that monitors the ceasefire between the government and the MILF. Malaysia, along with Singapore and Indonesia, invited Thailand to join the "Eyes in the Sky" program designed to provide enhanced security to the Strait of Malacca, the world's busiest shipping lane. Malaysia has actively contributed to counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia and sent several naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden following the pirating of two Malaysian commercial vessels there. Malaysia’s naval vessels will remain off the coast of Somalia until February 2009. The pirated ships were released upon the payment of significant ransom fees to the pirates.
Malaysia’s central bank signed memoranda of understanding on the sharing of financial intelligence with the FIUs of seventeen nations, including the United States. Malaysia is an active member of the Asia/Pacific Group Donor & Provider Group for Technical Assistance and has worked with the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank, United Nation Counterterrorism Committee Executive Directorate, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the Australian FIU (AUSTRAC) to provide technical assistance in various ASEAN member countries.
Micronesia, Federated States of
Law enforcement efforts against terrorism, limited as they are given the region's lack of capacity, fall within the purview of the Transnational Crime Unit (TCU). Reliant on American funding and Australian supervision since its opening in April, the TCU brought officers from other Pacific island nations to Palikir, the Micronesian capital, to share information on such issues as narcotics, human trafficking, and terrorism. The TCU also exchanged information with the FBI and the Australian Federal Police, making it the recipient of any terrorist-related intelligence.
Although there were no known terrorist groups operating in Mongolia and no known bases of support, Mongolian government officials cited more than 6,000 kilometers of porous borders, easy entry for foreign travelers, and poverty as conditions that terrorists could exploit, and moved to increase awareness of terrorism and to consider new laws. In November, Mongolia’s State Specialized Inspection Agency, Border Protection Agency, and Customs Authority; in partnership with the Second Line of Defense program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, installed and began using portals to detect the movement of nuclear and radiological devices and materials at the northern and southern rail border crossings, and at Chinggis Khaan International Airport in Ulaanbaatar. The Mongolian police, the Ministry of Justice, and the General Intelligence Agency’s counterterrorism branch cooperated with their U.S. counterparts on counterterrorism issues. As a result of resource and technical limitations, however, Mongolian counterterrorism law enforcement capacities remained modest.
Internationally, Mongolia deployed a total of ten rotations of 100 Mongolian soldiers to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. These rotations ended in September, with the downsizing of the Multi-National Forces Iraq contingent strength. Mongolia also supported Operation Enduring Freedom through the provision of teams of Mongolian soldiers to Afghanistan to train the Afghan National Army.
The New Zealand government continued to assist Pacific Island Countries' (PICs) compliance with international counterterrorism efforts and focused on legislative and operational capacity-building projects in the region through its Pacific Security Fund. New Zealand convened and chaired the annual Pacific Islands Forum Working Group on Counterterrorism (WGCT), which provided an opportunity for PICs to receive up-to-date information and to coordinate technical assistance projects to assist their compliance with UN Security Council reporting obligations. At the June 2 meeting of the WGCT, New Zealand offered assistance with UN reporting. Similarly, New Zealand used its Asia Security Fund to promote counterterrorism capacity building and a range of partnered regional security initiatives. To address radicalization and terrorist recruitment in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand continued to participate in interfaith and inter-cultural initiatives such as the Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue and the UN-led Alliance of Civilizations initiative.
A member of the Proliferation Security Initiative’s (PSI) Operational Experts Group since 2004, New Zealand attended and presented at PSI meetings throughout the year. In June, New Zealand provided a PSI presentation to the Pacific Islands Forum Working Group on Counterterrorism and raised PSI at the Pacific Islands Forum Regional Security Meeting in Suva. New Zealand's bilateral PSI outreach included Indonesia, Laos, Chile, Brazil, Thailand, Cambodia, Egypt, Republic of Korea, and Pacific Island countries.
In October 2007, New Zealand police arrested and detained 17 people and seized a sizable weapons cache, including semi-automatic weapons and petrol bombs. Amid evidence that some detainees were possibly involved in the planning of terrorist acts against the state, 12 of the 17 were later referred for possible prosecution under the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA), the first time the Act was invoked since it became law in 2002. New Zealand's Solicitor-General, however, declined TSA prosecution but nonetheless prosecuted the 17 arrested under the Firearms Act. In October 2008, the courts acquitted one of the 17 initially arrested in the 2007 raids because of insufficient evidence. The 16 remaining arrestees were on bail pending a future court date. In a related event, the Solicitor-General filed contempt of court proceedings against Fairfax Media and the editor of the Dominion Post newspaper for publishing 13 extracts in November 2007 from conversations recorded during police surveillance of those 17 people detained under possible terrorism charges. The matter remained before the courts at year’s end.
In December, the New Zealand Police requested U.S. funding to enable officers of the elite Special Tactics Group (STG) to provide covert in-flight security on 2.5 percent of all flights to or over the United States. New Zealand law already allows armed police on flights to meet international aviation security standards, though the government said none had yet been deployed.
New Zealand remained active in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and worked with coalition partners in undertaking maritime security operations in the Persian Gulf. New Zealand commanded the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province, with up to 140 PRT personnel. Three New Zealand Police were based in Bamyan working with the European Police Mission in Afghanistan.
Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, or Vanuatu
Pacific Island nations, in general, are at a crossroads in development which has left a large, younger generation with fewer options for education and employment than is required for healthy growth. Without sustained social and economic development the growing youth population could be more vulnerable to extremist influences. None of these countries’ governments maintained strong counterterrorism or intelligence gathering programs and therefore might be unable to detect highly organized and trained terrorists in their territories, nor have they taken any type of specific, proactive action to detect, disrupt, or deter terrorist activity.
As in recent years, terrorist groups active in the Philippines included the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), the New People's Army (NPA), and the Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM). U.S. intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance supported Armed Forces of the Philippines' operations against terrorist elements in the southern Philippines, while U.S. Department of Justice criminal-investigation and antiterrorism programs trained approximately 5,000 police and other security personnel. Implementation of the Coastwatch South program continued to move forward; its radar stations and sea-surface and aerial assets will dramatically improve the government's oversight of the "Terrorist Transit Triangle" region bordered by the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement's newly-developed Philippine Biometric Initiative has provided Philippine National Police with fingerprints, photographs, and other information on 130 suspected terrorists.
Philippine security forces continued to make progress against terrorist groups, killing 35 terrorists and capturing another 16 during the first half of the year. Those apprehended included an RSM cofounder and two bomb makers in Mindanao.
The U.S. counterterrorism strategy of offering development opportunities in areas at risk for terrorist recruitment continued to marginalize the small remaining numbers of ASG and JI terrorists from Muslim insurgents in the southern Philippines. While the 5,000-strong NPA continued to disrupt public security and business operations with intermittent attacks on communication and transportation infrastructure throughout the Philippines, it continued to decline in personnel and effectiveness. However, the NPA remained steadfast in its refusal to accept President Arroyo's broad amnesty overtures, turning down offers to negotiate unless its U.S. and international designations as a terrorist organization were rescinded. RSM maintained close links to ASG and JI, and was alleged to have been responsible for multiple attacks in the Philippines. In early 2008, RSM was included on the UN 1267 Committee sanctions list. This led to the freezing of RSM bank accounts and real estate.
Philippine military and law enforcement agencies conducted intensive civil-military and internal security operations to eliminate terrorist safe havens in the Sulu Archipelago and central Mindanao. In July, Ruben Pestano Lavilla, Jr., a leader and founding member of the RSM, was arrested in Bahrain and deported to the Philippines. In December, the Court of Appeals ordered the trial of RSM founder Hiliarion "Ahmad" Santos and other suspected RSM members for their alleged involvement in multiple bombings and kidnappings in the Philippines during 2005 and 2006.
The 2007 passage of the Human Security Act (HSA) was an important step in the modernization of tools available to Philippine law enforcement for use against terrorists. The Act permits wiretapping of members of judicially-designated terrorist organizations, and financial investigations of individuals connected to terrorist organizations. However, the law's tight restrictions have limited its actual application. The key difficulty in implementing the law is that stiff fines will be imposed on the law enforcement agency for violating a suspect's rights if the accused is later acquitted or the case is dismissed (fines are approximately USD 10,000 per day for the entire period of detention). The Act did, however, provide for the establishment of an Antiterrorism Council to effectively implement counterterrorism efforts in the country and ensure interagency cooperation. The Council focused its first year's efforts in building the organizational and administrative infrastructure necessary to facilitate closer cooperation between Council members and supporting agencies.
The United States had excellent cooperation from Philippine law enforcement officials in obtaining access to terrorist detainees and witnesses for FBI interviews, and access to criminal, immigration, financial, and biographic records via the mechanisms established in the U.S. - Philippine Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The Philippine Security Engagement Board was the primary mechanism for the planning and coordination of nontraditional security issues, including counterterrorism and maritime security. Throughout the year, the Embassy continued to achieve significant progress in supporting the counterterrorism efforts of the Philippine government, including well-coordinated Embassy programs aimed at strengthening security forces and promoting peace and development in Mindanao. This pro-active partnership with the Philippine government has yielded solid results in combating terrorist elements, including ASG, JI, and the NPA.
The Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program continued to increase the capabilities of Philippine law enforcement agencies to detect, deter, counter, and investigate terrorist activities in the Philippines through carefully-targeted and sequenced delivery of training courses and equipment grants. During 2008, ATA increased its focus on Mindanao by providing valuable training in a wide range of areas including Interdicting Terrorist Activity, Explosive Incident Countermeasures, Post-Blast Investigation, Advanced Computer Forensics, and Cellphone Forensics. ATA instituted a K-9 program of bomb-detection dogs with the Philippine National Police (PNP) by funding U.S.-trained dogs, their handlers, veterinarians, and kennel facilities. ATA assistance has also focused on training in response mechanisms to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism. On the prevention end of the spectrum, U.S. assistance under the Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) has received strong cooperation from the GRP in securing laboratory infrastructure, dangerous pathogen collections, and raising awareness on biological threats in order to prevent bioterrorism in the Philippines, a place where burgeoning biotechnology, infectious diseases, and transnational terrorist threats coexist.
The U.S. Department of Justice/International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (DOJ/ICITAP) trained 4,197 police personnel and pursued police development primarily through the Model Police Station Program, which trained PNP personnel at 10 stations in 15 critical subjects; the Maritime Police Project, which when completed will equip maritime police in Palawan Province with special patrol boats to monitor the western Sulu Sea bordering Malaysia; and the Southern Philippines Law Enforcement Development Project, which entailed training PNP personnel in basic police operations and investigation techniques in Sulu Province.
Other programs have included the DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE) development of the Philippine Biometrics Initiative, whereby fingerprints, photographs, and other information on suspected terrorists were collected and provided to the appropriate Philippine authorities. The Coastwatch South program will dramatically improve oversight of the tri-border "Terrorist Transit Triangle" with the use of 12-17 coastal radar sites connected by a string of air, ocean, and ground surveillance and interdiction assets, including Forward-Looking Infrared Radar (FLIR) pods for Philippine Navy aircraft and 10 rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs).
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued digitized, machine-readable passports at all its locations.
Singaporean officials took strong measures to enhance maritime security in nearby waters, especially the Strait of Malacca, including countering terrorist threats, piracy, and other criminal attacks. The three littoral states – Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore – continued their surface, naval, and air patrols in and over the Strait of Malacca. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) continued construction of the Changi C2 Centre, which will house a multi-agency Port Operations and Control Centre, a Multinational Operations and Exercises Centre, and an Information Fusion Centre, the latter to be staffed with International Liaison Officers. The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre (ISC) continued its operations, connecting 14 governments in Asia to enhance piracy-related information sharing.
The RSN participated in the annual bilateral exercise "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training" with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, and the multilateral "South East Asia Cooperation Against Terrorism" (SEACAT) exercise. Singapore conducted its own internal, annual exercise, APEX, which tested the government’s interagency response to a maritime terrorism incident.
As of December, Singapore-held detainees included members of JI who in 2001 and 2002 had plotted to carry out attacks in Singapore, and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Under detention orders, the detainees were required to undergo a program of religious counseling with a group of volunteer religious counselors. Singapore enlisted the support of religious teachers and scholars to study JI's ideology, develop teachings to counter the group's spread within Singapore's Muslim community, and provide counseling to detainees. One JI detainee was released on a Restriction Order (RO) in February; and five JI members were released on ROs in September. Singapore authorities determined that the released detainees had cooperated in Singaporean security investigations and responded positively to rehabilitation, including religious counseling. One person with links to terrorist groups was newly detained in 2008. The recidivism rates among detainees released in Singapore is unknown.
In February, Mas Selemat Kastari, the Singapore leader of JI, escaped from detention. Despite a massive manhunt, the Singapore authorities failed to locate and re-capture Kastari, who had reportedly escaped by climbing out of a restroom window located in a meeting area of the detention center.
In February, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) published the results of its review of Singapore's anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regime, finding it compliant or largely compliant with most of the FATF's recommendations. The evaluation noted that Singapore had improved feedback to financial institutions, enhanced supervisory oversight and stepped up training. However, concerns remained over the effectiveness of Singapore's money laundering regulations and new system for declaring cross-border transactions. In December, the government amended the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act to allow the government to respond to requests for extradition from Parties to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, even in the absence of an extradition treaty, for all terrorism financing offenses.
In September, Singapore cooperated with U.S. authorities to investigate and subsequently apprehend a Singapore suspect who had allegedly sent terrorist threats by e-mail to several airlines and embassies around the world.
In June, the United States and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to strengthen ongoing collaboration on aviation security. In August, the United States and Singapore signed a host country Memorandum of Understanding concerning challenge inspections under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Singapore has been a signatory to the CWC since 1997.
Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations and, therefore, is not subject to UNSC Resolutions and cannot join UN conventions and protocols related to terrorist financing. Nonetheless, Taiwan sought to implement, to the maximum extent possible, all UN resolutions related to combating terrorism and terrorist finance issues. Taiwan continued to provide rapid and thorough responses on terrorism financing issues to the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). In 2006, Taiwan's Executive Yuan submitted an "Antiterrorist Action Law" to the Legislative Yuan. This bill was still awaiting action by the legislature. If passed, it will empower the Financial Supervisory Commission to seize assets of entities involved in terrorist activities, and employ a package of trade, travel, and financial sanctions against North Korea in response to UNSCR 1718.
The cabinet-level Counterterrorism Office (CTO) conducted several large-scale training exercises. In January, Taiwan law enforcement participated in an AIT sponsored Digital Video Conference with security organizers from the Salt Lake Olympics Games. In November, the CTO conducted an inter-ministerial exercise that covered natural disaster and counterterrorist responses. Taiwan engaged in seeking ways to harden and protect its critical infrastructure, in order to maintain continuity of operations and government in the event of an attack or a disaster.
Counterterrorism cooperation with the Government of Thailand remained strong despite considerable internal political turmoil and the Thai government’s concern with domestic political issues. Thai and USG officials have long expressed concern that transnational terrorist groups could establish links with southern Thailand-based separatist groups. However, there were no indications that transnational terrorist groups were directly involved in the violence in the south, and there was no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai separatist groups and regional terroristnetworks.
The ethno-nationalist separatist insurgency in Thailand’s extreme southern provinces of Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala continued through 2008. Some 3400 people have been killed in the conflict since the violence escalated in 2004 in assassinations, beheadings, and coordinated bombings using improvised explosive devices. This region has experienced episodic, separatist-related violence for decades between the predominantly ethnic Malay-Muslim population and the Thai government. Thai press reports and security forces attributed nearly all the attacks in the South to militant separatists; it is unclear, however, how much of the violence was also attributable to crime and political disputes.
The porous nature of Thailand's southern border with Malaysia remained an issue of concern because of the difficulty both Thailand and Malaysia have in controlling it. In a March meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, then Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej agreed to continue cooperation on measures to improve security in the border area through discussions on issues of dual nationality, sharing information, and joint patrols by Thai and Malaysian security forces. In September, Thailand agreed to conduct joint sea and air patrols of the Malacca Strait with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Thailand joined the Malacca Strait Patrols agreement which includes Eyes in the Sky and intelligence exchange programs.
Legal mechanisms to counter the Southern Thai insurgency lagged behind security efforts. Government prosecutors struggled to develop cases that could stand up in court and relied chiefly on confessions to bring prosecutions. Police forensics and ballistics work often failed to produce evidence that led to arrests following separatist attacks. Because of the difficulties in bringing cases to court, security forces engaging in operations to arrest militants relied instead on their powers under martial law and the 2005 Emergency Decree to detain suspects, who can be held for 37 days without being charged with a crime.
Thai security forces cooperated with the United States and with other countries to deny safe haven to terrorists within their borders. In the past, Thailand has served as a transit point for regional terrorists, as evidenced by the 2003 capture in central Thailand of Nurjaman Riduan bin Isomuddin (a.k.a. Hambali), JI's operations chief and the architect behind the 2002 Bali bombings.
Thai police and security officials participated in a series of U.S. training programs sponsored through the Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, the Force Protection Detachment (FPD), and the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok. Training modules included post-blast and crime scene investigation courses, and the Antiterrorism Executive Forum. U.S. and Thai militaries cooperated in a series of training events designed to build counterterrorism capacity to respond to terrorist acts. These events culminated around the Cobra Gold 2008 Joint-Combined Military Training Exercises, in which peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief were for the first time combined to respond to the changing nature of the security environment in Southeast Asia.
Thailand has been an active and cooperative partner in combating WMD terrorism, and is a participant in the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Megaports Initiative. Working through the Embassy’s Export Control and Border Security (EXBS) program, Thailand participated in port and border security programs, and programs to strengthen Thailand’s controls on the export of munitions, dual use goods, and related technologies. The Thai government participated in EXBS assistance assessments at the ports of Laem Chabang, Bangkok, and Chiang Saen; a border crossing assessment at Mae Sai; and a Seaport Interdiction Training at Laem Chabang. Thai officials participated in workshops on Strategic Trade Controls and attended a conference on international transshipment issues held in Tangier, Morocco. he Thai government, led by the Ministry of Commerce, stood up an Export Control Working Group in March and began examining better ways to automate its strategic trade licensing system.
The Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) was the center for interdicting terrorist finance, and is Thailand's official Financial Intelligence Unit. Thailand has been a member of the Financial Action Task Force’s Egmont Group since June 2001. AMLO, the Bank of Thailand (the central bank), and the Securities and Exchange Commission, are empowered to supervise and examine financial institutions for compliance with anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financial laws and regulations.
In October 2007, the Ministry of Finance issued new regulations governing cross border cash carrying, bringing Thailand into line with the Financial Action Task Force Special Recommendation on Terrorist Financing. In January 2008, it issued a regulation stipulating that persons traveling in and out of the country carrying more than USD 20,000 must declare the amount to Thai customs. In August, the Bank of Thailand reissued instructions to financial institutions (Thai and foreign commercial banks, finance companies, and asset management companies) to adopt “know your customer and customer due diligence” procedures in order to comply with FATF recommendations on Anti-Money Laundering and Combating the Financing of Terrorism.
The Thai government cooperated on the extradition of international arms dealer Victor Bout, who is under federal indictment in New York for conspiring to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Bout was arrested in Bangkok in March, and his extradition proceedings remained ongoing. U.S. and Thai authorities have cooperated extensively throughout the investigation and extradition proceedings.
Thailand participated actively in international counterterrorism efforts through the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and other fora. In January 2007, Thailand became a signatory to the ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism; the Thai Cabinet approved the convention’s ratification, and it was ratified by the Foreign Minister in February 2008.
 The ethno-nationalist separatist insurgency in Thailand’s extreme southern provinces of Songkhla, Pattani, Narathiwat, and Yala continued through 2008. Some 3400 people have been killed in the conflict since the violence escalated in 2004 in assassinations, beheadings, and coordinated bombings using improvised explosive devices. This region has experienced episodic, separatist-related violence for decades between the predominantly ethnic Malay-Muslim population and the Thai government. Thai press reports and security forces attributed nearly all the attacks in the South to militant separatists; it is unclear, however, how much of the violence was also attributable to crime and political disputes.
The Prakas is a key implementing regulation of the law.