Australia, ASEAN vow to combat Daesh

ASEAN leaders wave as they stand together during the Leaders Welcome and Family Photo at the one-off summit of 10-member ASEAN in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Australia, ASEAN vow to combat Daesh

JAKARTA: The leaders of ASEAN countries and Australia reiterated on Sunday their commitment to combat borderless violent extremism and to work more closely to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the region.
The leaders were concluding the ASEAN-Australia special summit, held for the first time in Sydney over the weekend.
In a joint statement dubbed the “Sydney Declaration” issued at the end of the special summit, the 11 leaders said they “unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
They also said they would enhance regional cooperation to address the root cause of conditions that contribute to the growth and spread of violent extremism and radicalization.
To cement their commitment, the 10 ASEAN member states and Australia agreed on Saturday to a joint counterterrorism pact which marks a deepened and expanded cooperation. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the bloc’s Secretary General, Lim Jock Hoi, and Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, and witnessed by the 10 ASEAN and Australian leaders at the end of the ASEAN-Australia counterterrorism conference.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in his speech at the forum that he appreciated Australia’s active cooperation with ASEAN in combating terrorism, citing Australia’s role in co-hosting with Indonesia in July the sub-regional counterterrorism forum involving Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore and New Zealand to address borderless terrorism and the adverse impact of then-besieged Marawi in the southern Philippines.
According to a statement from the presidential palace press bureau, Widodo also welcomed the MoU signing, saying: “Based on my observation, the MoU underscores a balance between hard and soft approaches” in fighting violent extremism.
Chief of Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency, Commissioner Gen. Suhardi Alius, said Indonesia shared at the forum its experience in counterterrorism efforts such as amending the anti-terrorism law to include provisions that would criminalize Indonesian citizens’ involvement in plotting, training and traveling for terror-related purposes.
In a press release, Alius said he also shared the agency’s recent efforts to reconcile 124 former convicts with 51 survivors and family members of those who died in terror attacks in the country.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia sees ASEAN as an essential security partner and called for unity in the face of terror, which he said was carried out by a small minority of people who defame and blaspheme against Islam.
“They have sought to sow discord by their perverted and nihilistic interpretation of Islam, to provoke hatred between Sunni and Shia Muslims and to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims,” Turnbull said, according to a transcript.
“Our best allies in the war against this scourge are the vast majority of Muslims — around the world, around the region, here in Australia — and their leaders,” he added, mentioning Widodo, Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, all of whom are leaders of Muslim-majority ASEAN nations.
Turnbull also highlighted the possible threats of Asian-origin Daesh fighters who are returning to the region “battle-hardened and trained.”
“It is vital for Australia and our ASEAN partners to collaborate across borders to ensure that our counterterrorism legal frameworks are robust enough to provide effective investigation, prosecution and punishment, while being flexible enough to adapt to the changing and uncertain security environment,” Turnbull said.
The counterterrorism pact includes cooperation to develop and implement counterterrorism legislation, an ASEAN-Australia workshop on using electronic evidence in terrorism and transnational crime-related investigations and prosecutions, and exchange programs for financial intelligence analysts.
Australia and the ASEAN countries will also establish regional dialogues and forums with law enforcement partners, aimed at combating the threat of Daesh-affiliated terrorists. Australia will provide a capacity-building program for ASEAN law enforcement partners on technology-enabled crime to assist in detecting and disrupting terrorist activity.


UN Security Council to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh as it eyes action on Rohingya crisis

Updated 27 April 2018
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UN Security Council to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh as it eyes action on Rohingya crisis

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will pay a visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar beginning Saturday as it weighs next steps to address one of the world’s worst refugee crises, stemming from the forced exodus of Muslim Rohingya.
Myanmar has come under international scrutiny since a military campaign launched in August drove more than 700,000 Rohingya from their homes in northern Rakhine state and into crowded camps in Bangladesh.
The council is urging Myanmar to allow their safe return and take steps to end decades of discrimination that the Muslim minority has suffered in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The visit kicks off in the camps of Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh where ambassadors will meet refugees, whose harrowing accounts of killings, rape and the torching of villages at the hands of Myanmar’s military and militias have been documented in UN human rights reports.
Led by Kuwait, Britain and Peru, the four-day visit is expected to include a trip by helicopter to Rakhine to allow ambassadors to tour villages affected by the violence, including Pan Taw Pyin and Shwe Zar.
The council will hold talks with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out in defense of the Rohingya, and with Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Kuwait’s Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said the visit was not about “naming and shaming” Myanmar, but that “the message will be very clear for them: the international community is following the situation and has great interest in resolving it.”
“We are coming to see how can we help, how can we push things forward,” he said, stressing that the current situation was “not acceptable.”
“700,000 people have fled their country and they cannot go back. It’s a humanitarian disaster.”
After months of deliberations, Myanmar finally agreed this month to allow the council to visit as the government rejected accusations from the United Nations and Western countries that the attacks against the Rohingya were ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar has said the military operation in Rakhine is aimed at rooting out extremists.
British Ambassador Karen Pierce said it was “incredibly important” for the council to see the situation on the ground as it considers “what needs to be done next to help Myanmar develop as a modern, political and economic entity.”
The United States and its European partners in the council have faced strong opposition to action on the Rohingya crisis from China, a supporter of Myanmar’s former ruling junta.
The council adopted a statement in November that called on Myanmar to rein in its military, but there has been no resolution, a stronger measure that China would likely block as one of the veto-wielding permanent members.
“This trip represents an opportunity for the council to press the reset button,” said Akshaya Kumar, UN deputy director for Human Rights Watch.
“They have taken almost no action,” she said.
“So if this trip is what is needed to spur them to actually respond to the gravity of an ethnic cleansing on their watch, then we’ll be waiting for a resolution when they return.”
The president of the International Red Cross, which is providing aid to those affected by the violence in Rakhine, said the Myanmar government is rebuilding villages and taking steps to allow the Rohingya to return.
“But what we see is that people don’t yet trust that this will give them safety and security,” said Peter Maurer.
“We are at the beginning of the such a confidence-building process. It’s a very long way to go,” Maurer told reporters.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday announced the appointment of Christine Schraner Burgener, Switzerland’s ambassador to Germany, as his new special envoy to Myanmar, following a months-long search for an emissary.