Potential Infiltration of Extremists in Southeast Asia: Parallel to Unfitted National and Regional Approaches to the Existing Hotspots

Sarawut Aree, Shekh Mohammad Altafur Rahman

Abstract


With the recent changes in the nature and tactics of global terrorism Southeast Asia is demonstrating its potential to be used as a base for the extremists. Many security specialists believe that the threat posed by ISIS in Southeast Asia is real, and it has been growing since mid- 2014 (Liow, 2016). With the weakening of extremist’s hubs in Iraq and Syria and divisive anti-extremist policies across the world, the extremists are consistently searching for new bases in Asia and Africa. Southeast Asia as region host several conflict hotspots, which is a lucrative ground to exploit the situation for their benefits. Considering such reality the paper enquiries whether the extremists would be able to take advantage of the gaps in the national and regional approaches to the conflicts hotspots or exploit the ideological ignorance or attempt to create intra-Islam, inter-nations, and inter-cultural divisions in Southeast Asia. Investigating these enquiries this paper first identifies the scopes, strengths and weakness of the national and regional anti-extremist approaches to those conflict hotpots; then analyses the initiatives and regional interaction to bring religious clarity; and finally reviews the importance of regional cooperation to address the threats of extremism. Based on comprehensive literature review, semi-structured expert interview and four case studies, the paper identifies that the changed situation of extremism is impacting the greater Southeast Asian security. It concludes by linking the extremist’s attempt to infiltrate the Southeast Asian hotspots to the gaps in coordination between the national and regional anti-extremist measures. 


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