"Our cause is a just cause. Terrorism respects no value system; terrorism does not respect the tenets of the great religions of the world; terrorism is based on evil, intolerance, and bigotry. And no free societies, such as Australia and the United States, can ever buckle under to bigotry and intolerance."
John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia
Remarks at the White House
Washington, DC, May 16, 2006
The Jemaah Islamiya regional terrorist network remained a serious threat to Western and regional interests, particularly in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines, although its capabilities were degraded due in large part to regional counterterrorism successes in 2005-2006. As 2007 began, DNA analysis conducted by the FBI confirmed the death of Abu Sayyaf Group's (ASG) nominal leader, Khaddafy Janjalani, at the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Early in 2007, Philippine forces also eliminated ASG spokesperson, Abu Solaiman. In August, the AFP killed a significant ASG sub commander, Ismin Sahiron. These deaths represented a major blow to JI, but did not eliminate the overall threat to U.S. interests in the Philippines. JI bombers Dulmatin and Patek remained on the run, probably on Jolo Island. Other terrorists remained at large in Southeast Asia, such as key JI operative Noordin Mat Top, in Indonesia.
Geography makes effective border control problematic for archipelagic states like Indonesia and the Philippines. Monitoring remote locations among the thousands of islands in the Sulawesi Sea and Sulu Archipelago that span the boundaries between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines is extremely difficult, which makes this tri-border area well suited to terrorist activities, including movement of personnel, equipment, and funds. Therefore, regional capacity building has emerged as a priority goal, in addition to bilateral cooperation and national capacity building. Institutes like the U.S.-Thailand International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok and the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT) in Malaysia continued to expand their activities to provide effective counterterrorism training to law enforcement officers throughout the region. Likewise, the Australian-Indonesian Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) is a promising additional regional center for capacity building. Multilateral fora, including the United Nations 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), which adopted a new ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism pending ratification, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), continued their important roles as key organizations for regional counterterrorism cooperation.
Australia worked to strengthen the Asia-Pacific region's counterterrorism capacity through a range of initiatives, both bilaterally and in regional fora such as APEC, the ASEAN ARF, and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF). Australia increased its four-year counterterrorism assistance to the region by about $70 million to boost the capacity to combat terrorism, bringing the total amount committed to offshore counterterrorism activities since 2004 to $350 million. In March, Australian police arrested three suspected terrorists in Melbourne as part of an ongoing counterterrorism operation, disrupting a significant threat to the city.
China supported several operational and logistical aspects of the War on Terror. China participates in the United States Megaports Initiative designed to improve the security of U.S.-bound cargo. Container Security initiative programs are operating in the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen. China increased its efforts to build its domestic counterterrorism capabilities with a focus on improving security for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Beijing continued to express concern that terrorists operate on Chinese territory and has asserted that some members of the Uighur minority in Xingjiang Province pose a threat to China's domestic stability.
Japan strengthened its own security by contributing to counterterrorism capacity-building among Asian countries and by participating in a second trilateral counterterrorism dialogue with the United States and Australia in October. Japan is using Official Development Assistance (ODA) grants to expand counterterrorism capacity building in Southeast Asia. This $60 million dollar annual program, initiated in FY-2006, includes projects aimed at increasing maritime and port security. The Republic of Korea is shifting its attention to possible acts of terror beyond the Korean Peninsula. Reflecting this shift, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) appointed its first Director for International Counterterrorism Cooperation in February.
Thailand's military staged a coup in September. An interim government has been attempting to address the ongoing violence connected to a separatist movement in the ethnic Malay, Muslim south. Although the roots of the problem are ethnic and not religious, there is concern that southern unrest has the potential to attract international terrorist groups such as JI and al-Qaida that may attempt to capitalize on the increasingly violent situation for their own purposes.
In addition to its substantial ongoing efforts to combat domestic and international terrorism, Australia launched new initiatives working with its regional neighbors to assist in building their resolve and capacity to confront terrorism. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) Joint Counterterrorism Teams' (JCTT) multi-agency effort to address domestic and international terrorism concerns in Australia's six largest cities became fully operational this year. In March, Australian police arrested three suspected terrorists in Melbourne as part of an ongoing counterterrorism operation, disrupting a significant threat to the community. In August, an Australian court sentenced Faheem Khalid Lodhi to 20 years in prison for plotting to bomb Australia's national electricity grid. Regional cooperation between Australian and Southeast Asian government agencies continued to disrupt terrorist operations. Active cooperation with immigration agencies in the region strengthened border controls and impeded terrorists' ability to travel, recruit, train, and operate.
In December, Australia enacted new anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing (AML/CTF) legislation that would make the Australian Transaction Reports Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which monitors financial transactions, the national AML/CTF regulator with supervisory, monitoring, and enforcement functions over a diverse range of industry sectors. Australia strengthened its intelligence capabilities by funding additional staff and technical capabilities, and established identity security strike teams to investigate and prosecute people and syndicates involved in manufacturing false identities.
As part of measures Australia undertook in response to the 2005 Wheeler Report on Aviation Security and Policing at Australian Airports, airport police commanders began their new role overseeing crime and security-related matters at eleven counterterrorism first response airports in the country. Australia announced in its budget that it would enhance closed circuit television monitoring and analysis capability at its international airports. This will expand the deployment of explosives trace-detection equipment for the examination of domestic air cargo at each of Australia's major airports and will improve the quality of security training for cargo handlers. Australia committed to enhancing its capability to identify, inspect, and respond to high-risk export air cargo through the deployment of additional explosives detector-dog teams; the provision of additional mobile X-ray vans; and the trial of communications technology to achieve real-time air cargo reporting. The Australian government provided additional funding to enhance its ability to detect, deter, and respond to illegal activity near its borders, including illegal fishing and trafficking in persons, through increased surveillance and patrolling.
Australia used its position as Chair of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies (WA) to increase awareness of the Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS) threat and the need for more effective export controls, and to solicit greater cooperation, particularly from states that produce, export, or stockpile MANPADS. Australia also led outreach missions to non-Wassenaar states China, India, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Singapore. In June, Australia hosted an international seminar in Geneva to promote the need for practical action to counter the global MANPADS threat. In the same month, Australia, the United States, and the Philippines hosted a workshop in Manila on the methodology of conducting airport MANPADS vulnerability assessments. In August, Australia advocated for increased efforts to counter the proliferation of MANPADS at the UN Conference on Disarmament. In October, Australia co-chaired with Thailand an ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on stockpile security of MANPADS and small arms and light weapons to help regional countries strengthen their domestic inventory controls.
The Australian ambassador for counterterrorism chaired the International Counterterrorism Coordination Group, Australia's interagency counterterrorism working group. Australia increased its four-year regional counterterrorism assistance package by about $70 million to boost the capacity of neighbor countries to combat terrorism, bringing the total amount committed to offshore counterterrorism activities since 2004 to $350 million. Building on successful regional cooperation among law enforcement, intelligence, and border control authorities, the package included new measures and a new emphasis on expanding regional cooperation. Cooperation will focus on countering the threat of terrorists acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction, building regional capability for responding to terrorist attacks, and commencing activities to promote tolerance and counteract terrorist propaganda. Key programs included funding for enhancing law enforcement counterterrorism capacity and liaison networks, expanding intelligence cooperation capabilities, improving border control capability and coordination in Southeast Asia, further developing the APEC Regional Movement Alert System, enhancing Indonesia's border alert system at major ports, building regional awareness of the terrorist WMD threat and strengthening regional controls on chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials, and improving regional emergency response capacity and coordination. In July, Australia became an initial partner nation in the U.S. Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and, in October, it participated in a second Trilateral Counterterrorism Dialogue with the United States and Japan.
Australia continued to provide legal drafting assistance to regional states, including the South Pacific islands, seeking to adopt international conventions and protocols against terrorism and to bring their domestic laws into conformity with these conventions. In February, Australia opened the upgraded Transnational Crime Centre in Jakarta which was first established as a joint initiative between Australia and Indonesia in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings. The center housed Indonesia's first national intelligence database, linking 30 locations throughout the country. The joint Australian-Indonesian Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC) located in Semarang, Indonesia has offered more than 50 courses and trained more than 1,200 officers to date. The AFP committed additional agents to Jakarta and Manila to work closely with those governments and the FBI to apprehend JI fugitives.
The AFP received funding to expand its investigative and specialist training, currently delivered to regional law enforcement partners through facilities like JCLEC. Funding was also targeted toward conducting offshore exercises and training with regional partners, increasing the number of counterterrorism advisers working in the 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. The Australian government substantially increased the AFP's International Deployment Group by over 400 personnel and created an Operational Response Group ready to respond on short notice to emerging law and order issues and to conduct stabilization operations.
Australia contributed an additional 500 troops to Afghanistan as part of a Dutch-led provincial reconstruction team. By year's end, there were 1,000 Australian troops in Iraq and 800 in Afghanistan. Australia designated a total of 19 terrorist organizations under its domestic criminal code.
The Government of Australia and its Muslim advisory body, the Muslim Community Reference Group, continued efforts begun in 2005 to develop and implement a National Action Plan to promote social cohesion, harmony, and security. The plan committed almost $30 million for a range of activities to address extremism and intolerance in the Australian community. Activities will include integration enhancement and crisis management training for Muslim communities, and education and employment programs that work to bring law enforcement agencies and Muslim communities together to resolve issues of conflict and discrimination.
Bilateral relations between Burma and the United States remained strained. The Burmese regime's willingness to cooperate and coordinate on counterterrorist activities within the country and throughout the region remains limited. However, Burma has cooperated with the United States on both transnational terrorist threats and law enforcement efforts to stem narcotrafficking and money laundering. Burmese Special Branch police created a new counterterrorism unit headquartered in Rangoon.
The Burmese judicial system lacked independence and transparency and suffered from corruption. The government defined almost all anti-regime activities "acts of terrorism" and made little distinction between peaceful political dissent and violent attacks by insurgents or criminals. Suspected perpetrators of any acts that opposed the regime were subject to lengthy detention without trial or due process. The government was quick to characterize dissident groups as aligned with terrorist organizations and used this as justification to scrutinize and disrupt their activities. The regime regularly labeled exile leaders and political activists as "terrorists." No reliable evidence existed that any terrorists, terrorist organizations, or affiliations, were using Burma as a safe haven.
No known anti-American terrorist groups were operating in Burma. However, some observers posited possible links between known terrorist organizations and two local insurgent groups: the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, and the Arakan Rohingya National Organization. There were few signs that either group remained active inside of Burma, although the Burmese regime's severe repression of the Rohingya Muslim population inside Burma could foster sympathy with extremist methods and objectives.
Indigenous violence in Burma generally was targeted against the ruling regime. Various insurgent groups in ethnic minority areas near borders with China, India, Bangladesh, Laos, and Thailand conducted small-scale actions against the Burmese authorities. The Government of Burma attributed several recent bombings in the capital and elsewhere to anti-regime elements, but did not publicly file charges against specific individuals.
On January 3, two small-scale bombings occurred in Bago. No deaths or injuries were reported. Police conducted an initial investigation and blamed ethnic Karen groups for attempting to disrupt the National Convention and Burmese Independence Day, which is January 4. On April 20, five small improvised explosive devices went off in downtown Rangoon; police reported minimal damage and no injuries. On September 21, Embassy contacts in the Burmese Special Branch Police reported that a small bomb exploded inside a women's bathroom at the Teachers Training College in Rangoon, but that no one was injured and the explosion caused very little damage. The Burmese police politely refused the Embassy's request to view either the scene or any remaining fragments. As in most such incidents, the Government of Burma claimed the incident was a subversive act, "committed by a group of insurgent destructive elements who wanted to disturb and destroy stability of the state." Authorities did not make public any evidence of a genuine investigation or identify the specific perpetrator(s).
Cambodia's ability to investigate potential terrorist activities was limited by a lack of training and resources. An absence of comprehensive domestic legislation to combat terrorism also hindered the government's ability to arrest and prosecute terrorists. Cambodia's political leadership, however, demonstrated a strong commitment to take aggressive legal action against terrorists.
There were no indications that specific terrorist groups operated in Cambodia, but porous borders and endemic corruption could make the country vulnerable to a terrorist presence. The Cambodian government believed that the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), which carried out an armed attack in November 2000 that killed eight people, are still capable of carrying out attacks in Cambodia. The leader of this group was arrested in California in 2005. The Cambodian government was working with the FBI to bring the leader of the CFF to trial in the United States.
Various officials were identified to take positions in Cambodia's National Counterterrorism Committee (NCTC), a policy level decision-making body established by the government in 2005 and chaired by the prime minister. The Australian military conducted a conference with the NCTC in August and expressed its intention to follow-up with a tabletop exercise with the Center.
In addition to providing assistance for the NCTC, the Australian government was helping Cambodia draft a new counterterrorism law. The draft law was being reviewed by the relevant legislative committee and the national legislature was expected to adopt it. The Australian and U.K. governments jointly sponsored a National Seminar on Counterterrorism in April to help train the Cambodian military and police. The Malaysian government cooperated with the Cambodian government on Malaysia-specific cases.
In December, following the visit of the Sri Lankan prime minister, the Cambodian government announced that a Sri Lankan military intelligence official would work with police and defense officials on intelligence matters. His announcement followed Prime Minister Hun Sen's assurance to his Sri Lankan counterpart that the Tamil Tiger rebels would not receive arms smuggled from Cambodia, although the government acknowledged it was likely this has occurred in the past. Cambodia has destroyed 200,000 small arms over the last several years with EU assistance, and, with U.S. assistance, has destroyed its stockpile of MANPADS.
With U.S. assistance, the Government of Cambodia installed computerized border control systems at Phnom Penh and Siem Riep airports and at the land border crossing of Poipet and Koh Kong. The Cambodian government also cooperated fully with U.S. requests to monitor terrorists and terrorist entities listed as supporters of terrorist financing.
As Beijing prepares to host the 2008 Olympics, China increasingly reached out to the United States and other nations on counterterrorism cooperation. No acts of terrorism were committed in China this year, but Chinese citizens were victims of terrorist acts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan.
China participated in the United States Megaports Initiative designed to improve security for United States-bound cargo. The U.S. Department of Energy and its Chinese counterparts made progress toward implementation of the November 2005 agreement allowing the installation of equipment at China's ports to detect hidden shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials. China became an initial partner nation in the U.S. Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, attending the first meeting of the Global Initiative in Rabat, Morocco in October. China also continued its participation in the Container Security Initiative.
Chinese officials signed statements with counterterrorism counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In April, China co-hosted the Fourth ARF Meeting on Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime in Beijing. China is a founding member of the SCO and has made counterterrorism one of the group's main objectives. In June, China hosted an SCO summit in Shanghai that included India, Iran, Pakistan, and Mongolia as observers. At the summit, the member states agreed to hold joint counterterrorism military exercises in Russia in 2007, with troops from all six SCO member states participating. In August, China and Kazakhstan held their first-ever joint counterterrorism exercises in Kazakhstan. In August, China signed agreements with Pakistan on border control, terrorism, and crime and, in December, held joint counterterrorism exercises in Pakistan.
China ratified the UN International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism in February and worked to expand its international cooperation on terrorist finance through mutual legal assistance agreements with foreign jurisdictions. In October, China passed a new Anti-Money Laundering Law, which took effect January 1, 2007, broadening the scope of existing anti-money laundering regulations to hold a greater range of financial institutions liable and to expand the powers of the People's Bank of China (PBOC). With the PBOC as the lead agency for all anti-money laundering activities in China, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is responsible for criminal investigations, and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE) is the primary agency for countering illicit foreign exchange transactions.
Institutional obstacles and rivalries between domestic financial and law enforcement authorities hampered Chinese anti-money laundering work and other financial law enforcement aimed at countering terrorists. Still, China's Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), established in 2004 to track suspicious transactions, worked closely with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) in the United States to develop its capabilities. China began requiring banks and financial institutions to establish anti-money laundering systems, record customer identities, and report suspicious transactions. In January, China launched a national credit information system to more efficiently monitor transactions, information collection, and dissemination. Nonetheless, anti-money laundering efforts were hampered by the prevalence of counterfeit identity documents and cash transactions conducted by underground banks, which, in some regions, reportedly accounted for over one-third of lending activities.
China refused to recognize the Egmont Group, an umbrella body coordinating the activities of over 100 FIUs worldwide, because the Group includes an FIU from Taiwan. Joining the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) remained an important priority for China. In 2004, China joined the Eurasia FATF-style regional group, and, in 2005, China was granted FATF observer status. In November 2006, an FATF Mutual Evaluation Team comprehensively reviewed China's anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance regime. The results of the review and China's bid to join FATF will be discussed at the June 2007 FATF Plenary Meeting.
Human rights organizations have accused China of using counterterrorism as a pretext to continue efforts to suppress Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group that comprises the majority of the population of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In August, Chinese police officials announced that since 1990 they have seized 41 tons of explosives from separatists in Xinjiang, including grenades and materials to make bombs. Also in August, China convicted a Canadian citizen of Uighur ethnicity of involvement in East Turkistan terrorist activities. In November, China gave Canada assurances that he would not be executed for his alleged crimes; he remains in prison.
In May, the United States released five ethnic Uighur Chinese national detainees found not to be Enemy Combatants from Guantanamo (GTMO) to Albania. The Chinese government denounced the move as a violation of international law and demanded the return of the men to China. Some of the remaining Uighur detainees at GTMO were designated for transfer or release and others will have their status reviewed annually.
Formally established in 2004, the FBI Legal Attach� Office in Beijing bolstered U.S.-China cooperation on counterterrorism investigations. China provided substantive intelligence in some counterterrorism cases, but more work remained to be done in terms of its overall responsiveness to U.S. requests. In July, the first meeting between a standing Chinese Minister of Public Security and the Director of the FBI was held in Washington, D.C., where FBI Director Robert Mueller hosted Minister Zhou Yongkang, principally to discuss terrorism matters.
Following Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff's visit to Beijing in April, the United States and China signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to allow United States Federal Air Marshals (FAMS) to fly to China and Chinese air marshals to fly into the United States. In addition, the MOU provided for training and information exchanges. The first FAMS mission was completed in August, and the Chinese air marshals completed training at the FAMS Training Facility in September.
In February, the United States Coast Guard Liaison Office was established in Beijing as a focal point for United States-China exchanges to enhance the safety and security of ports around the world in compliance with the Maritime Transportation Safety Act. Activities included a visit by the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, three expert-level delegations to conduct training and exchanges, two port visits in China by U.S. Coast Guard cutters, and one international exercise.
Although not publicly attributing any particular incident to terrorism, Chinese authorities asserted that terrorists, primarily based in Xinjiang, continued to operate clandestinely on Chinese territory. The Chinese government attempted to restrict foreign support for perceived terrorism and increased the number of deployed security personnel in response to perceived terrorist activities in Xinjiang. The United States has sanctioned Chinese entities for missile and chemical weapons proliferation activities, including transfers to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.
Hong Kong's role as a major transit point for cargo, finances, and people makes it an important counterterrorism partner, and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) continued to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism efforts.
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 U.S. government delegations, which described it as a model for CSI implementation. The U.S. government continued to work with one of Hong Kong's port terminal operators to develop and refine integrated container security architecture.
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 on Money Laundering. Hong Kong's Joint Financial Intelligence Unit (JFIU), operated by Hong Kong Police and the Customs and Excises Department, is a member of the Egmont Group.
The UN International Convention for the Suppression of Financing Terrorism became applicable to Hong Kong when ratified by the People's Republic of China on April 19. The Hong Kong regional government published the list of individuals and entities designated as terrorists or terrorist associates under UNSCR 1267 and the financial regulators circulated the lists to financial institutions, advising them to check the lists and report any suspicious transactions to law enforcement agencies.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority recently coordinated the establishment of an Industry Working Group on Anti-Money Laundering that included representatives from some 20 authorized institutions. The group established three sub-groups to address terrorist financing, transaction monitoring systems, and private banking issues.
The Macau Special Administrative Region Government (MSARG) passed both anti-money laundering and counterterrorism finance legislation. Still, Macau's lack of judicial and law enforcement experience in combating financial crimes, combined with its expanding casino industry and history as a base for organized crime, provided a potential site for money laundering and terrorist financing activities.
On March 23, the Macau government passed new counterterrorism legislation aimed at strengthening counterterrorist financing measures. The law made it illegal to conceal or handle finances on behalf of terrorist organizations. Individuals were liable even if they were not members of designated terrorist organizations themselves. The legislation also allowed, in certain cases, prosecution of persons who committed terrorist acts outside of Macau and mandated stiffer penalties. On the same day, the government also passed a money laundering bill that strengthened its oversight of financial institutions. The new law imposed requirements for the mandatory identification and registration of financial institution shareholders, customer identification, and external audits that includes reviews of compliance with anti-money laundering statutes.
The Macau government has the authority to freeze terrorist assets, although a judicial order is required. Macau financial authorities directed the institutions they supervise to conduct searches for terrorist assets using the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee consolidated list and the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists designated by the United States pursuant to E.O. 13224. Bank examiners reviewed customer profiles, large cash transaction records, and suspicious bank reports. They also interviewed frontline staff, senior management and money laundering compliance officers.
The Government of Macau continued to exchange information with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and counterparts in mainland China. Additionally, Macau continued to cooperate internationally in counterterrorism efforts, through INTERPOL and other security-focused organizations within the Asia Pacific Region.
Since late 2004, the Indonesian government increased counterterrorism efforts and counterterrorism cooperation with both the United States and the international community. The Indonesian National Police (INP) had several successes in breaking-up terrorist cells and arresting terrorists with links to Jemaah Islamiya (JI). INP investigations into the October 2005 suicide attacks on Bali led to numerous successes for Indonesia's counterterrorism investigators. Links among violent Islamic radicals and extremist organizations, including JI and its associates, remained a serious security threat to both Western and domestic targets in Indonesia, although no major anti-Western terrorist incident occurred. Physical security at major hotels and tourist venues in Jakarta and Bali was upgraded significantly. At year's end, the main target of Indonesian CT units remained Malaysian JI operative and recruiter Noordin Mohammed Top, suspected in nearly every major terrorist attack in Indonesia since 2002.
The security situation in the previously strife-torn Maluku region improved, absent major incidents of interfaith violence. In central Sulawesi, where terrorist attacks in 2005 claimed several lives, a special taskforce led by the INP's top CT investigators identified and arrested several JI-linked terrorists responsible for the October 2005 Poso schoolgirl beheadings and other previously unresolved cases. The three main suspects arrested in April were brought to trial in Jakarta. In September, several days of street violence in Indonesia's eastern provinces followed the executions in Palu of three Christian men for their role in inciting deadly attacks against Muslims in 2000. However, the perpetrators behind the October shooting death of a Christian priest in Palu remained at large. Also at large were more than two dozen terrorist suspects in central Sulawesi who continued to evade INP investigators. The INP feared aggressive police operations would provoke the militants, and, in November, the INP unsuccessfully sought cooperation from the suspects' families to encourage the suspects to surrender.
The Indonesian attorney general's office continued to seek convictions in more than two dozen terrorism cases tried this year. Among those convicted were terrorist recruiter and trainer Subur Sugiyarto, terrorist financier Abdullah Sunata, and trained bomb maker Mohammad Cholily. In July, Indonesia's attorney general staffed the long awaited Terrorism and Transnational Crime Task Force, designed to oversee counterterrorism trials nationwide through a cadre of special terrorism prosecutors. Task Force members immediately began to take on over a dozen counterterrorism cases, including the three central Sulawesi cases.
Indonesia's policy of routinely granting sentence remissions to nearly all prisoners continued to benefit convicted terrorists, resulting in several early releases. JI figure Emir Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, sentenced in 2005 to 30 months in prison for his involvement in a "sinister conspiracy" to carry out the 2002 Bali attacks, was released in June after several routine sentence reductions. In December, the Indonesian Supreme Court overturned Ba'sayir's conviction based on a judicial review in which Ba'sayir's defense presented new evidence. Also released were several lesser known JI-linked figures and Rusman "Gun-gun" Gunawan, the younger brother of Indonesian-born Riduan bin Isomuddin, also known as Hambali, who was an operational leader in JI and served as the middleman between JI and al-Qaida from 2000 until his capture in 2003.1 Hambali, a high value detainee, was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September.
The Indonesian government continued its efforts to develop an effective anti-money laundering regime, but investigations and prosecutions in these cases continued to fall short. Indonesian police froze terrorist financial assets uncovered during investigations, but the government's implementation of the sanctions regime established pursuant to UNSCR 1267 was hampered by poor interagency coordination and by human and technical capacity deficits in both government and financial institutions. The USAID is promoting capacity building through its Financial Crimes Prevention Project, a multi-year program to provide technical advisors and support to Indonesia's effort to develop an effective and credible regime against money laundering and terrorism finance.
Indonesian counterterrorism efforts remained hindered by weak laws and enforcement, serious internal coordination problems, and systemic corruption that further limited already strained government resources. Lawmakers and other senior elected officials continued their slow pace toward needed legal reforms. A widely discussed plan to establish an official counterterrorism coordinating agency appeared to have been shelved after awaiting final presidential approval. Prospective members of the independent police commission designed to help guide police reform were identified this year, but they still need a formal presidential appointment before assuming their responsibilities. The government has not yet submitted a revision of the 2003 Counterterrorism Law to the House of Representatives. Indonesian authorities recognized that more effective prosecution of terrorism cases would require a revision of the law to include updated standards for introducing evidence in terror cases and comprehensive articles on conspiracy.
Domestically, Japan continued to bolster its defenses against terrorism. In March, the Cabinet approved emergency contingency plans for 47 prefectures to better protect the public from terrorist attacks. In May, Japan revised the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act to enable immigration officials to collect and electronically store fingerprint and facial imagery from foreigners. The Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau continued testing began in 2004 on a biometric fingerprint and facial recognition system at Narita and Kansai airports with the aim of identifying people trying to enter Japan on fake passports. In June, the government developed legislation designed to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and plans to submit the bill to the Diet. In a bid to clamp down on money laundering, the Ministry of Finance announced in August that Japanese financial institutions would be required to confirm the identity of customers sending 100,000 yen or more overseas. The Financial Services Agency announced a similar change for domestic remittances. On December 1, the Diet passed the Infectious Disease Law to prohibit possession and production of 12 pathogens, including Anthrax and the Ebola Virus to help prevent bioterrorism.
Japan used Official Development Assistance (ODA) grants to expand counterterrorism capacity in Southeast Asia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Economic Cooperation Bureau initiated the grant for Cooperation on Counterterrorism and Security Enhancement. This nearly US$ 60.86 million annual program included projects aimed at bolstering piracy prevention, increasing maritime and port security, and preventing weapons proliferation.
Japan made valuable contributions to building counterterrorism capacity among Asian countries. In January, Japan hosted a two-day ministerial conference on international transport security to promote cooperation on ground transportation security; representatives from 14 countries attended. In June, Foreign Minister Aso signed a counterterrorism capacity building plan with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan offering equipment and support for border control. In June, Japan hosted the ASEAN-Japan Counterterrorism Dialogue.
In July, the Japanese government held a seminar on the prevention and crisis management of bioterrorism to strengthen mechanisms to combat CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) terrorism in the Asia Pacific. In attendance were officials from 14 countries and representatives from the World Health Organization, the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies, and the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT). Japan was an active partner in the Proliferation Security Initiative, participating in exercises, attending all meetings for intelligence experts and operational experts, and leading regional outreach efforts. In October, Japan became an initial partner nation in the U.S. Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and attended its first Global Initiative meeting in Rabat, Morocco. Also in October, Japan hosted a counterterrorism trilateral meeting with the United States and Australia; the following month, these three countries participated in a trilateral strategic dialogue to better synchronize regional activities. Participants from 19 countries discussed measures to tighten nuclear and radiological security at the November International Atomic Energy Agence (IAEA)-Government of Japan Seminar on Strengthening Nuclear Security in Asia.
Japan continued to reach beyond the region in its fight against terrorism. In December, the Abe Cabinet approved the extension of Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JSDF) airlift operations until July 2007, enabling Japan to continue its support for Iraq. In October, the Diet extended for one year the Antiterrorism Special Measures Law that allows for JSDF support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) provided approximately 124 million gallons of fuel to U.S. and allied naval vessels engaged in OEF.
Bilaterally, Japan was a responsive partner in the fight against terrorism. In February, Japanese air marshals trained at the United States Federal Air Marshal Training Facility. Japan remained an advocate and active participant in the International Port Security Program (IPSP). Widely considered a regional leader in maritime security collaboration, the Government of Japan hosted a number of bilateral and multilateral maritime security events. Japan continued its participation in the Port State Control Officer exchange program with the U.S. Coast Guard, which worked to exchange best practices in implementing international ship security requirements.
The National Police Agency (NPA) and the Public Security Intelligence Agency (PSIA) continued to monitor the activities of Aum Shinrikyo, renamed Aleph. In January, the Public Security Examination Commission extended PSIA's legal authority to monitor Aleph for an additional three years. The Tokyo District Court, in August, upheld the death sentence for Aum Shinrikyo member Masami Tsuchiya, who was charged with making the sarin nerve gas used in the deadly 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system. In September, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto; he is not eligible to file future appeals. In February, the Tokyo High Court upheld the death sentence for Tomomitsu Niimi, convicted in 2002 for murdering 26 individuals in seven Aum Shinrikyo-related cases, including the 1995 sarin attack.
The Tokyo District Court sentenced Fusako Shigenobu, a former Japanese Red Army (JRA) member, to 20 years in prison in February. Members of the JRA were responsible for seizing the French Embassy in The Hague in 1974 and the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur in 1975. Prosecutors argued for a life sentence for Shigenobu, claiming she was the alleged mastermind of the "Hague Incident," but the court ruled that even though she conspired to take over the French Embassy, she was not physically present during the Embassy seizure. As of mid-December, former JRA member Jun Nishikawa remained on trial for his suspected role in a 1977 Japan Airlines hijacking.
See Chapter 3, State Sponsors of Terrorism.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) demonstrated excellent law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, and provided terrorism-related training to law enforcement officials from various developing countries. Traditionally focused on potential terrorism from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea), the Korean government broadened its attention to possible acts of terror from beyond the Korean Peninsula. Reflecting this shift, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), appointed the first Director for International Counterterrorism Cooperation in February. Seoul supported U.S. goals in Afghanistan and maintained the third-largest foreign troop contingent in Iraq, where it has committed $260 million in assistance since 2004. The Korean government remained a valued international partner in the fight against terror financing and money laundering.
In December, the Republic of Korea agreed to participate in the Secure Freight Initiative, which will provide screening for radiation of all cargo bound for the United States. On aviation security, the government participated in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program and contributed over 500,000 US$ to ICAO activities. In November, the Republic of Korea joined other APEC member nations in endorsing U.S. security initiatives on aviation security, bioterrorism and food defense, and the protection of commercial and financial sectors from abuse by proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. It also took a number of bilateral antiterrorism measures in the region. In November, the governments of Korea and the Philippines launched a joint study on the development of a national computer emergency response team to combat cyber crime. In December, Korea and Indonesia agreed to continue cooperation against transnational crime, including terrorism and security in the Malaka and Singapore Straits. The Korean government also held bilateral counterterrorism consultations with Australia, Singapore, India, Vietnam, Russia, and China.
Korean immigration and law enforcement agencies have an excellent record of tracking suspicious individuals entering their territory and reacting quickly to thwart potential terrorist acts. The government conducted a Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) vulnerability assessment of Incheon International Airport in September, and began examining various countermeasures, including a three-level alert system, increased local patrols, and enhanced public education.
Seoul continued its active participation in regional training and capacity building programs. The Korean government hosted representatives from the Middle East, Latin America, and elsewhere in Asia for training in crime prevention, criminal justice, counterterrorism, forensic science, anti-piracy and terrorism management, prevention of money laundering, and narcotics law enforcement.
Although the Government of Laos had positive intentions regarding counterterrorism, weak enforcement procedures, inefficient security organizations, and a fundamental misunderstanding of how its law applies to the UNSC counterterrorism conventions, all served to hamper the implementation of multilateral agreements. Border security was negligible. Since 2002, Laos consistently denounced international terrorism and expressed a willingness to cooperate with the international community on counterterrorism. Its actions, however, have mostly been disappointing, due to both a lack of resources and an attitude among Lao officials that Laos could not become a target of international terrorism. In spite of the presence of a domestic insurgency that has employed terrorist tactics, such as ambushing civilian buses and bombing civilian targets, Lao officials at many levels saw terrorism as an issue of only marginal relevance to Laos; they believed that Laos, as a small and neutral country, would not be targeted by international terrorists.
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 has 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.
In accordance with its obligations under UNSCR 1373, the Bank of Lao issued freeze orders for assets of organizations and individuals named in lists provided by the United States. 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.
Laos does not have a separate counterterrorism law, but the Lao judicial system was prepared to prosecute acts of terrorism as serious crimes under the Lao criminal code, and recent amendments to the criminal code sought to strengthen counterterrorism sanctions. Still, a November UN-sponsored workshop on counterterrorism illustrated a myriad of shortcomings and vagaries in the theoretical application of the Lao criminal code to deal with terrorism-related crimes, and successful prosecution under these laws is speculative.
Laos' border security was weak; border officials could not effectively control access to the country even at its most sophisticated border checkpoints. Border crossing along the Mekong River into the surrounding countries of Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia could be accomplished easily and without detection. In more remote sections of the country, along borders with Vietnam and China, it is likely that unmonitored border crossings by locals occurred on a daily basis. Since 9/11, Lao authorities have strengthened airport security, but security procedures at both airport and land immigration points remained lax compared with most other countries in the region. In addition, official Lao identity documents, including passports and ID cards, were easy to purchase from corrupt officials. Laos has a small insurgency numbering perhaps 1,000 to 2,000 persons, including women and children, based in very remote areas of north/central Laos.
The Government of Malaysia took significant steps to improve its legal framework to deal with terrorists and their enablers. New provisions were added to Malaysia's Penal Code and Criminal Procedures Code that include clearer definitions of terrorism and related crimes and penalties including the death penalty or life in prison for terrorist-related crimes. In the Spring, police arrested 12 members of Darul Islam in Sabah, including citizens of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The group was believed to have supported JI terrorists operating in Indonesia and the Philippines, and they were reportedly caught with illegal firearms and bomb making directions at the time of their arrest. Media reports also indicated that police made multiple interdictions of explosives and bomb making material transiting Malaysia via Eastern Sabah.
The police in Malaysia took the lead in counterterrorist investigations and operations. Malaysian police forces fall under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Security which is headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. To date, suspected terrorists have not been brought to trial but are held in detention under the country's Internal Security Act (ISA) where they undergo a program of rehabilitation. While in theory, ISA detentions can last indefinitely, sentences are for two years and must be renewed by a determination that the detainee remains a threat to national security. In October, the government unexpectedly released 17 individuals from ISA detention stating that they had been rehabilitated. Because they had been released before completing their sentences, these individuals were placed in probationary status and must periodically report to the authorities. Five of the released detainees had been members of the Kumpulan Mujahedin Malaysia (KMM), while the other eleven were believed to have had ties to Jemaah Islamiya (JI).
Counterterrorism finance-related amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, the Subordinate Courts Act and the Courts of Judicature Act came into effect on January 1, 2007. Malaysia and the United States also signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.
The Malaysian government engaged with its neighbors on issues related to counterterrorism and transnational crime. It continued to operate and hoped to expand the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Counterterrorism (SEARCCT), an international center for training. Malaysian mediators continued to work in the southern Philippines to help end the dispute between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). With the "Eyes in Sky" program, Malaysian military forces were working with Singapore and Indonesia to provide enhanced security to the Straits of Malacca, the world's busiest shipping lane. In December, the Malaysian Defense Minister/Deputy Prime Minister and his Indonesian counterpart announced an initiative to enhance bilateral police cooperation along the land border on Borneo.
There were no known terrorist groups operating in Mongolia and no known bases of support. However, 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. On July 8, a law to combat money laundering and terrorist financing offenses was approved by the Mongolian Parliament. The Mongolian police, Ministry of Justice, and the General Intelligence Agency's counterterrorism branch all cooperated with the U.S. to willingly provide requested support. As a result of resource and technical limitations, however, law enforcement capacities, including those related to counterterrorism, remained modest. Mongolia deployed a seventh rotation of 100 Mongolian soldiers to Iraq in October in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as a sixth rotation of 21 Mongolian soldiers to Afghanistan to train the Afghan National Army.
In June, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Act 2005, which expanded criminalization of terrorist financing to include the intentional financing of non-designated organizations that engage in terrorism. New Zealand designated 68 terrorist organizations in 2006, bringing its total number of designated terrorist organizations to 488. Under the Financial Transactions Reporting Act of 1996, banks are required to report suspicious activities to the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) housed in the National Police Department. The FIU had received about 4,200 Suspicious Transaction Reports and referred 616 of these to various law enforcement agencies and units for investigation. The FIU received approximately 53 Suspicious Property Reports; none were found to have connections to terrorist entities or associated individuals.
New Zealand remained active in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where it has commanded the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan Province since September 2003. New Zealand also participated actively in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and took part in a U.S.-sponsored PSI tabletop exercise in October. On March 27, New Zealand and the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) through which New Zealand joined the United States and Australia in the Regional Movement Alert List (RMAL) passport alert system, an APEC forum initiative. In the Fall, an officer from the New Zealand police was seconded to the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF-West) in the Pacific Command Center in Hawaii. New Zealand offered assistance to Pacific Islands Forum member countries to help them submit reports pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1267, 1373, and 1540. Nine Pacific Island countries responded positively to this offer.
The Philippines, one of the earliest supporters of the War on Terror, continued its bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism efforts. In August, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched "Operation Ultimatum", a concerted effort to capture or kill the top Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) operatives on Jolo Island in the South. The operation has been highly successful to date as a number of ASG and JI members have been captured or killed since its inception. Philippine forces recently eliminated both Khadaffy Janjalani, the nominal leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and ASG spokesperson, Abu Solaiman. Operation Ultimatum is one feature of a U.S.- assisted strategy to strengthen the rule of law in the Sulu archipelago. Joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises know as "Balikatan" supported the Philippine government's campaign to separate terrorists from the general population and diminish support for their cause. The Antiterrorism Task Force arrested, captured, or killed 88 suspected terrorists, and seized over 900 kilograms of explosive materials. Philippine authorities also made some progress in tracking, blocking, and seizing terrorists' assets.
Despite some successes, major evidentiary and procedural obstacles in the Philippines continued to hinder the building of effective terrorism cases. A large and growing case backlog and the absence of consistent trials against terrorists were impediments to the prosecution of suspected terrorists. Despite plans dating back to 2001, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had yet to introduce a digitized, machine-readable passport. While the Philippines cooperated with U.S. requests for prosecutions for persons who had tampered or altered travel documents, the prosecutions carried low-level penalties for those convicted of such fraud. In addition, there was a reluctance to investigate or charge vendors or users of false documents. Under current Philippine law, the suspect must present the fraudulent document to a Philippine government authority in order for a crime to have been committed. At year's end, a counterterrorism bill approved in April by the House of Representatives remained in the Senate.
The Philippines experienced 93 bombings, ranging from improvised explosive devices and grenades to landmines, including:
The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was empowered by the Philippines Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 (AMLA), as amended in 2003, to investigate and prosecute money laundering. The AMLC is the lead agency responsible for implementing the asset freeze measures called for by the UN Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee. Under current law, however, the AMLC cannot take direct action against suspected terrorists or those supporting terrorism, but must apply for a court order to inquire into bank accounts and direct the freezing of assets and transactions. The AMLC sometimes needed several months to issue the relevant resolution to the Court of Appeals after receiving information about a newly-listed terrorist entity and circulating it to the financial institutions. The AMLC has 91 cases pending in various stages with the courts, including 34 for money laundering, 24 for civil forfeiture, and the rest pertaining to freeze orders and bank inquiries. The slow judicial process hindered efforts by the AMLC to see these cases through to conclusion; a trial can take up to seven years to complete.
In April, a bilateral U.S.-Philippines Security Engagement Board (SEB) was inaugurated to address non-traditional security issues, including counterterrorism and maritime security. The SEB set the stage for the "Kapid Bisig" (Shoulder-to-Shoulder) counterterrorism framework that focused on civil affairs, capability upgrades, and support for AFP operations. The United States assisted the Philippines in establishing an interagency intelligence fusion center in Zamboanga City to support both maritime interdictions against transnational criminal/terrorist organizations, and the "coast watch" system in Mindanao, established with Australian assistance.
Singapore continued its bilateral and multilateral intelligence and law enforcement cooperation to investigate terrorist groups, focusing on Jemaah Islamiya (JI). In February, Indonesia extradited Mas Selamat bin Kastari to Singapore. Mas Selamat, reportedly the Singaporean leader of a local JI network, fled Singapore in 2001 following the arrest of other JI members by the Internal Security Department (ISD).
Singapore detained five members of the regional terrorist group JI, including Mas Selamat, under the Internal Security Act (ISA). As of November, 34 people with links to terrorist groups were in detention. Detainees included members of JI who had plotted to carry out attacks in Singapore in the past 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.
In April, the Government of Singapore and the U.S. Department of Energy commenced joint operation of a Second Line of Defense (SLD) Megaports pilot project at Singapore's Pasir Panjang Terminal. Radiation detectors monitored export containers and a limited number of inter-terminal transshipped cargo containers. In July, Singapore announced a voluntary plan to enhance supply chain security. The plan included security guidelines and goals for companies to adhere to, in order to improve the security of their operations.
Since August, all new Singaporean passports were biometrically enabled. Singapore shared lost and stolen passport information with the U.S. and was working with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) partners to develop similar data-sharing. 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. In April, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia signed the Malacca Strait Patrols (MSP) agreement linking naval and air patrols over the Strait of Malacca by the three littoral states. In November, Singapore hosted the inaugural meeting of the 14-member governing council of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). Singapore provided significant funding for the organization's Information Sharing Centre, based in Singapore. Singapore actively participated in counterterrorism efforts through various international fora, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, and continued to take part in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), including the October Leading Edge PSI interdiction training exercise.
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 relating 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). Taiwan's Executive Yuan submitted an "Anti-terrorist Action Law" to the Legislative Yuan. This bill would 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. These items are under review.
The cabinet-level Counterterrorism Office conducted several large-scale training exercises. While its primary mission was counterterrorism, its focus broadened to include crisis management, disaster preparedness, and island-wide civilian military mobilization.
In September, the Container Security Initiative began operations at Taiwan's port of Kaohsiung and subsequently was expanded to Keelong harbor. Inspections in Kaohsiung have already yielded seizures of counterfeit currency and illegal drugs. In May, AIT and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office signed a Memorandum of Agreement to implement the U.S. Department of Energy's Megaports program in Kaohsiung to help prevent trafficking in radioactive materials. Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs announced a more comprehensive requirement for official approval of commodities exported from or transshipped through Taiwan ports to Iran and North Korea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs tightened regulations for issuing visas to nationals of North Korea and Iran.
On December 31, a series of eight bomb attacks took place at six separate locations in Bangkok. The bombs killed three Thai citizens and injured dozens, including six foreign tourists. The locations targeted in the attacks were not specifically identified with foreign interests or tourists. The perpetrators of the attacks were not identified. Thailand's biggest domestic security challenge remained the ongoing separatist movement in the far southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, and Songkhla. This region, bordering Malaysia, has experienced episodic, separatist-related violence for decades among the predominantly ethnic Malay-Muslim population. Since January 2004, violence increased dramatically and continued on a near daily basis. Suspected separatist militants carried out shootings, beheadings, and several coordinated bombings using improvised explosive devices, including an August 31 attack on 22 bank branch offices in Yala province.
In an effort to address local grievances, the interim government2 made a series of conciliatory gestures towards southern ethnic-Malay Muslims, including a pledge to seek talks with separatist leaders. Additionally, on November 1, the government reconstituted the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Center (SBPAC) and the Civilian, Military, and Police Command, two entities credited with effectively coordinating Thai government efforts in the region prior to their disbandment in 2002. The militants have not responded positively to these conciliatory gestures, and the violence continued.
The Government of Thailand maintained that the situation was a domestic issue. Elements of the government expressed concern, however, that militants involved in the violence may have received funding or training from outside Thailand. In November, interim Prime Minister Surayud said that militants were financing their activities in part through restaurants owned by Thai nationals living in Malaysia. Malaysian officials vehemently denied this allegation. Relations between Thailand and Malaysia remained strained as violence continued in Thai territory near their common border, but improved following visits to Kuala Lumpur by Surayud and other senior officials. The ongoing unrest received international attention and the concern of international Islamic organizations, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which expressed support for the reconciliation efforts made by the interim government.
Police forensics and ballistics work often failed to produce evidence that led to arrests following separatist attacks, and government prosecutors struggled to develop cases that could stand up in court. On November 18, three southern Thai Islamic teachers were convicted of criminal conspiracy charges related to their membership in the outlawed separatist group Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) and were sentenced to ten years in prison. This was one of the few successful prosecutions of southern militants by the government since the dramatic escalation in violence that began in 2004. In August, the Thai Attorney General held the first ever conference of Thai police and prosecutors working in the South, in part to improve cooperation between police and prosecutors. The newly reinstated SBPAC will also, for the first time, incorporate a special Ministry of Justice component offering legal aid to local citizens as well as serving to enhance police and prosecutor work in the South.
Thai security forces cooperated with the U.S. and other countries to deny safe haven for terrorists within their territory. 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 bombing. Thai and U.S. officials were concerned that transnational terror 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, and there was no evidence of direct operational links between southern Thai separatist groups and regional terror networks.
There were several militant domestic separatist groups implicated in the ongoing violence besides PULO, including the Pattani Islamic Mujahideen Movement (GMIP) and the Barisan Revolusi Nasional Coordinate (BRN-C). Some Thai officials have publicly labeled the operational arm of the BRN-C as the Ruanda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), which they blame for a significant number of attacks in the South. Some of these separatist groups may share elements of ideology and general rejection of Western influence held by international Islamic terrorists, but by all indications they remained primarily focused on seeking autonomy for the far southern provinces and historical grievances against the Thai state.
There was no evidence that foreign governments provided financial, military, or diplomatic support for militant separatist operations in the South of Thailand. However, Thai separatist groups such as PULO reportedly operated openly in Syria and a number of self-declared separatist leaders received asylum in Europe or were believed to be hiding in Malaysia. Officials in the Thai government expressed concern that money from Middle Eastern charities that supported religious or educational objectives could be diverted to support separatist activities, but there was no evidence of a direct link. Thai officials expressed concern that Thai students studying in madrassas in Pakistan and the Middle East might be exposed to extremist indoctrination. In November, Royal Thai Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin met with Thai students in Karachi, in part to address these concerns.
Since 2004, the militants appear to have limited their attacks to the geographic far South and have not specifically targeted U.S. persons or interests. On September 16, a U.S. citizen tourist was killed in Songkhla province by one of five coordinated bombs and on November 19, the local Ford and Chevrolet showrooms were among six car dealerships in Yala City targeted by bombers. No group claimed responsibility for these attacks.
Thai police and security officials participated in U.S. government training programs. The U.S. and Thai militaries conducted a number of joint exercises and training programs that supported counterterrorism. Bangkok's International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) began a series of training modules for Thai security officials and police that included post-blast and crime scene investigation courses. Under the auspices of the Container Security Initiative and the Megaport Initiative, Thailand engaged in a range of port security programs.
The Thai Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) acted as the center for interdicting terrorist finance. UN 1267 resolutions were quickly implemented by Thai banks under instructions from AMLO. Thailand has engaged with the G-8 Counterterrorism Action Group on increasing penalties for document fraud, which is an ongoing problem in Thailand.
The Government of Thailand participated actively in international counterterrorism efforts through ASEAN and other fora, but areas of concern remained. Thailand was party to only six of the 13 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism. Thailand has not endorsed the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which negatively affects regional counter-proliferation cooperation given Thailand's regional leadership role and strategic location.