Conflict, Community, and Criminality in Southeast Asia and Australia

Assessment from the Field

This report features a series of assessments drafted by members of the CSIS Trusted Information Network project on Southeast Asia (TIN-2). TNT created and operated TIN-2 to examine extremism and transnational crime in Southeast Asia and the surrounding region. Comprising top specialists from the region and beyond, this network highlighted the immense expertise such a group could bring to bear on important national security priorities. Primary analysis and findings of the TIN-2 project were published in an April 2009 CSIS report, The Power of Outreach: Leveraging Expertise on Threats in Southeast Asia. Because the TIN-2 discussion questions focused on overarching thematic issues, the editors felt it was important to draw on the tremendous and varied knowledge of the TIN-2 team to create a regional threat assessment. To this end, the TIN members drafted a short paper on their respective areas of expertise.

These 16 assessments address terrorism and criminality in the Southeast Asia region as a whole as well as the individual countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, and Australia. As the essays show, the situation is improving in some counties, while violence in on the upswing in others. The authors bring to bear direct experience with local terrorist threats, painting a concise and realistic picture. They pay particular attention to the role of local governments in fighting the threats, which have succeeded when they focus not on ideology or reframing the narrative but rather on reducing local grievances and encouraging and offering opportunities for mainstream Muslims. The lessons that can be drawn from these essays in effect recalibrate the debate on terrorism in Southeast Asia and, more generally, offer insights on strategy and tactics to countering local extremist threats.

David Gordon, Arnaud de Borchgrave