25 September 2017 | Manila, Philippines
ASEAN Member States (AMS), China, Japan and South Korea (ASEAN+3) Ministers gathered in Conrad Manila on 18-21 September for the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and the 2nd Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism (SAMMRRVE) in order to reinforce the region’s efforts in countering and combatting transnational crime through strengthened regional cooperation.
“The meeting was very productive and fruitful as we were able to adopt and endorse vital documents that will pave the way for stronger cooperation and collaboration among ASEAN member states in combatting transnational crime.” says Philippine Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) OIC Secretary and 11th AMMTC Chair Catalino S. Cuy.
The Ministers took note and welcomed the outcomes of the preceding meetings, such as the 14th Working Group Meeting (WGM) on Counter-Terrorism, 17th Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), 20th Directors-General of Immigration Departments and Heads of Consular Affairs Divisions of Ministries of Foreign Affairs Meeting (DGICM), and the 37th ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL) Conference.
“The meeting adopted the Terms of Reference of the AMMTC to facilitate regional cooperation and coordination in preventing and combatting transnational crime in the region. Similarly, the meeting adopted the ASEAN Plan of Action in Combatting Transnational Crime (2016-2025) and looked forward to the full implementation of the Plan of Action.” adds Cuy.
Counter-Terrorism, Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism
The AMMTC Leaders adopted two landmark documents, the Manila Declaration to Counter the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism and the ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-Terrorism. With the current Plan of Action, the involvement of INTERPOL and ASEANAPOL will be included in profiling suspected individuals who might be involved in terrorist activities, monitoring the financial transactions of suspected groups and individuals, as well as the screening of foreign terrorist fighters who might be attempting to enter the Southeast Asian Region. These efforts are a testament to ASEAN’s strong commitment to collectively address issues that threaten the peace, security, and stability of the region.
AMS and their Dialogue Partners also agreed on strengthening collaboration on this issue, particularly on maintaining joint patrols in common borders, regular exchanges in information and best practices, personnel training, as well as resource and capability-building. The Ministers highlighted that improving the capacity of each AMS to combat terrorists is essential for preventing threats to peace and security from spreading to other parts of the Region.
“During the three-day meeting, the member countries of ASEAN including the Three Dialogue Partners were unanimous in acknowledging the clear and present threats of violent extremists and they recognize the situation in Southeast Asia especially in Mindanao,” says the DILG OIC Secretary.
“Actually, the Dialogue Partners are concerned that the situation in Marawi has taken this long and they are worried that there might be some nationals from their respective countries who might be involved. So, they are monitoring and hoping that the situation would be resolved [at] the soonest possible time through closer coordination and cooperation with regards to the effort on counter-terrorism,” he adds.
More than addressing terrorism, the Meeting also discussed the rising threat of violent extremism brought about by the radicalisation of some Southeast Asians. The Ministers shared possible solutions and avenues of cooperation on how to be proactive in dealing with the radicalised population, particularly on how to “de-radicalise” them.
“There’s a program in this effort and Malaysia is contributing its best practices and experience in radicalisation. I think [the] other countries, even the Philippines, would be looking into that best practice because we are also facing some problems with regards to the radicalisation of some of our nationals especially those who are exposed to those who have been to the Middle East. And you should know one way of radicalisation now is through the internet. So, this is particularly a challenging task for law enforcers.” says AMMTC Chair Cuy.
Illegal Trafficking of Persons and Goods
The Ministers took note of the progress in developing the Bohol Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Work Plan 2017-2020 in implementing the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children and recognized the efforts of the ASEAN Sectoral Bodies involved in the crafting of the work plan. The Ministers expressed their optimism on the full endorsement of the Bohol TIP Work Plan 2017-2020 by all ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and its submission to the AMS Leaders during the 31st ASEAN Summit for notation.
With regard to the support of ASEAN in addressing the irregular movement of persons in the region, Cuy shares that ASEAN+3 Members have either already given or pledged their contributions to the Trust fund to Support Emergency Humanitarian and Relief Efforts in the Event of the Irregular Movement of Persons in Southeast Asia.
According to him, the ASEAN Secretariat has received the Philippine contribution to the trust fund amounting to almost $100,000 on May 4, 2016, while Singapore, Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam also turned in their donations. Malaysia and Brunei have also pledged to contribute $250,000 and $200,000 respectively. In response to a query if the fund could be used for the Rohingya Crisis, he stated that the ASEAN Secretariat is in the proper position to resolve the issue if it can be available for that purpose.
The meeting also established new SOMTC Working Groups (WG) aimed to tackle Regional solutions on emerging threats such as arms smuggling as well as the wildlife and timber trafficking.
“The meeting noted the progress in the implementation of the SOMTC Work Programme 2016-2018 and SOMTC’s adoption of the Illicit Trafficking of Wildlife and Timber Component of the SOMTC Work Programme 2016-2018,” says OIC Secretary Cuy.
The Ministers agreed in endorsing the ASEAN Declaration to Prevent and Combat Cybercrime, which include smeasures that acknowledge the importance of harmonizing and syncing laws related to cybercrime and electronic evidence as well as encouraging AMS to explore the feasibility of acceding to existing regional and international instruments in combatting cybercrime.
“The Ministerial Meeting discussed the commitment for exchange of information, training of personnel, equipment and further development of strategies to combat cybercrimes. The specifics will be taken up at the particular units of the different countries involved,” says the 11th AMMTC Chair.
During the latter part of the Meeting, the AMMTC Leaders welcomed Myanmar’s proposal to host the 12th AMMTC in 2018.