Structures for the support of Muslim militants in South East Asia with particular regard to structures for the financing of terrorist activities

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Structures for the support of Muslim militants in South East Asia with particular regard to structures for the financing of terrorist activities


On 30 July 2002 the ASEAN Regional Forum, on behalf of the participating states and organizations, issued the following statement1:

“In the interest of global peace and security, the participants in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) are determined to stop the financing of terrorism.”

In pursuing our goals, we have agreed to the following concrete steps:

 Freezing Terrorist Assets

·        Each ARF participant will implement the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, particularly UNSCR 1373, to stop the financing of terrorism.

·        In accordance with UNSCR 1373, each ARF participant will, within its jurisdiction, freeze without delay the assets of terrorists and their associates and close their access to the international financial system.

·        Each ARF participant will, consistent with its laws, make public the lists of terrorists whose assets are subject to freezing, and the amount of assets frozen, if any.

 Implementation of International Standards

·        Each ARF participant will aim to approve, accept, ratify or accede to and implement the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism as soon as possible.

·        Each ARF participant will aim to approve, accept, ratify or accede to and implement to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

·        We will work co-operatively and in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, FATF and FATF-style bodies, FSF, Basle Committee of Banking Supervisors (BCBS), and other relevant international and regional bodies to promote the adoption, implementation, and assessment of international standards or recommendations to combat the abuses of the financial system, including in respect of terrorist financing, financial regulation, and money laundering.


ASEAN’s member states include two predominantly Muslim countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, and the relationship between these two countries and Muslim militants that operate within their borders provides disturbing evidence of how declarations such as those above are in effect meaningless in the context of the international attempt to curb the flow of funds to terrorist organizations.

The objectives of Islamist terror and insurgency in South East Asia-some evidence of governmental assistance to Muslim militants
The attitude of the Malaysian and Indonesian governments to Muslim militants is best understood when the objectives of these militants, or terrorist are understood.

As will be demonstrated next, the objectives of these groups are aligned with those of these two governments and consequently a synergistic relationship between these groups and their host countries can be shown.

Muslim militants in south east Asia and their objectives

The simplest way to describe the objectives of Islamist terrorist in this region is to consider the activities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), and more recently the Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

All three have in common the Islamic faith, and their members are of the Malay race and their cause is centered on both their religion and their race.

In summary, the PULO seek the secession of southern Thailand which is predominantly Malay, so as to join with neighboring Malaysia, which has a Malay-Muslim majority.

The MILF, located in southern Philippines, seek a separate independent Malay-Muslim state ,which could then have closer economic and social ties with the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sabah, and Malaysia as a whole.

The JI on the other hand seek the formation of a Daulah Islamiah Nusantara or Nusantara Islamic State, which would encompass Malaysia ,Indonesia, the south of Thailand and the Philippines, as well as northern Australia.

Dreams of a united Malay archipelago, or “Nusantara”, go back to at least the early part of the 20th century, when the concept was put forth by Indonesian scholars as the basis for the overthrow of Dutch and British colonial rule by Malays in Malaysia and Indonesia, which together with the Philippines, form the Nusantara. The Philippines is not often thought of as being part of the Nusantara given that its citizens are predominantly Roman Catholic.

Today, the concept of “Wawasan Nusantara” (Archipelagic Outlook ) continues to have currency in Indonesia in a modified, more limited form. The concept may be defined as the ‘oneness’ of Indonesia in terms of territory (wilayah), nationhood (bangsa), goal and spirit of struggle (tujuan dan tekad perjuangan), law (hukum), socio-cultural attributes (sosial-budaya), economy (ekonomi), and defense and security (Hankam)2.

The concept of Wawasan Nusantara is a policy of the Indonesian Armed Forces and the armed forces effectiveness in implementing this policy is regularly reviewed.3
The implementation of the concept by the Indonesian Armed Forces has been explained by the Indonesian academic George Aditjondro as follows:
with PT Gunung Kijang (a subsidiary of an Indonesian military-owned business) operating in (among others, renovation projects) in the heart of Dili, it is not unlikely that elements in Indonesia would attempt to make Timor its client state ... especially TNI with their belief in the (defense of the archipelago) Wawasan Nusantara concept; if one part in the circle of islands breaks then the whole chain will be affected.

Thousands of foreign troops in East Timor are seen as a potential threat to the archipelago.4

Thus one can already see similarities between the JI objective of Daulah Islamiah Nusantara or Nusantara Islamic State and the earlier notion of concept of Nusantara, as well as its more recent form as practiced by the Indonesian Armed Forces. Further one can see that the Indonesian Armed Forces and the JI are alike in that they are both prepared to use force to achieve the dream of Nusantara.

The concept of Nusantara continues to have currency in Malaysia even if it does explicitly form part of Government policy.

The Malaysian Constitution provides for the special treatment and accords special privileges to those of Malay origin. The Constitution defines those accorded special benefits as Bumiputera (or sons of the soil) and provides that Bumiputera are those who are of the Muslim faith and who practice Malay customs and traditions.

This definition with its emphasis on Malayness is often linked to the concept of Nusantara.

For example Sultan Ahmad Shah, Sultan of the Malaysian state of Pahang has been reported as saying that it was important to protect and preserve Malay literature and culture for it “ drew forth from the istana (palace), which formed an element of Malay supremacy in the Nusantara5.

Given that the concept of Nusantara has been adopted in a modified form in Indonesia and given that it still finds support in Malaysia, one can see how a sense of solidarity between Malay-Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia could develop so as to include Malay-Muslims who are in the majority the southern parts Thailand and the Philippines.

The manner in which this solidarity has been expressed such that Muslim militancy in this region is encouraged is discussed in the following parts.

Malaysia ,the PULO , MILF and the JI

The Malaysian Government, via its security agencies, principally the Special Branch and the Malaysian External Intelligence Organization (ME10), or otherwise known as the Research Department of the Prime Minister’s Department) has been actively assisting the MILF with training and arms the since at least the late seventies6, and the PULO since at least the mid -seventies7.

More recently, Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has accused the government of the Malaysian state of Kelantan of providing PULO fighters with a refuge as well as allowing them to set-up jungle training camps. Although Prime Minister Thaksin was careful to say that the state government acted without the knowledge of the Malaysian Federal Government, Federal Government ministers, including Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Badawi have been strident in their condemnation of Prime Minister Thaksin’s assertions8. Their objections seem rather curious for the Federal Government itself has on numerous occasions condemned the government of the state of Kelantan, which is controlled by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) of promoting extreme Islamist views.

There is no evidence of direct assistance being provided the (JI), but it is interesting to note that the JI ‘s school for training in jungle warfare and explosives was located in the remote and minute town of Ulu Tiram9, which is also the location of the Malaysian Armed Forces Jungle Warfare Training School (PULADA) .
Furthermore, according to the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) the JI has been conducting training camps in Malaysia since 1990.
According to the MHA’s White Paper on the JI:
Up to 1994, the training was focused mainly on maintaining physical fitness like jogging and trekking. From 1995, however, the training camps held in GUNUNG PULAI
and KULAI began to also teach "military" skills (without firearms training). For instance, JI members were taught to make Molotov cocktails, learn knife-throwing skills, topography, jungle survival skills and trekking. In 1997, additional modules like guerrilla warfare, infiltration and ambush were included.
Around 2000, reconnaissance and observation courses were conducted in
KOTA TINGGI; these classes were dubbed "urban warfare". The JI even conducted "Recall and Operation exercises" to ensure that members were operationally ready. 14 (which includes the 3 who went to Afghanistan) of the 21 arrestees participated in such training camps in Malaysia10

Pulada is located also  at Kota Tinggi as well as Ulu Tiram11 and it covers an area so extensive that it may be used for the firing of rockets. Its jungle training area is said to be so large that it would not be covered in a three day-trek undertaken by combat-ready armed forces personnel.

The Gunung Pulai Recreational Reserve is also a catchment area for water supplied to Singapore.12 Being a catchment it would be designated a security area. In any case the highest parts of Guning Pulai's 2,147 feet are restricted military areas.13

Civilian buildings in the area include:
a) a  Malaysian Department of Agriculture Facility14
b) A Malaysian Government operated motivational camp, Kem Kaizen, which has been used by both the ruling United Malays National Organisation ,as well as the Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM).15

The three locations mentioned above, Kulai, Kota Tinggi and Ulu Tiram are all within 30-40 kms of each other.16

PULADA was originally known as the British Army’s Far East Training Centre ,and was set up in Malaya in 1948. Renamed The Jungle Warfare School in 1959, it's primary aim was to train instructors for battalions engaged in operations during the Malayan Emergency (1948-60) From 1963 this emphasis changed to preparation for units serving in the Borneo Confrontation. In 1971 The Jungle Warfare School moved to Singapore when PULADA was handed over to the Malaysian Army, although the UK continued to use the facilities17.
Although there is no direct evidence of assistance in the form of training being provided the JI by the Malaysian Government at PULADA, the activities of the JI in and around PULADA does fit a pattern of Islamist terror groups being trained in or around military and other government installations in Malaysia. The MILF for example, were trained on the island of Pangkor18, of the western coast of Peninsula Malaysia, and across a narrow strait from where today is located the Royal Malaysian Navy’s Headquarters in Lumut.

Similarly, the PULO have, as Prime Minister Thakshin19 has recently pointed out, often sought refuge on the Malaysian side of the Thai-Malaysia border, where the Malaysian Armed Forces have had a strong and regular presence since at least 1948, when as part of the British forces they fought the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). This fight continued into the late eighties, when the MCP officially disbanded.

Malaysia is one of the most heavily surveillanced countries in the region if not the world, and hence it would be quite difficult to make the case that the Malaysian Government was unaware of the activities of the MILF, PULO and JI so close to its military bases and installations. Therefore, at the very least, Malaysia would appear to have been a passive accomplice in the above mentioned groups activities, which include the Bali bombing.
ME10 activity has also been noted on the Cocos-Keeling Islands20, which lie in the Indian Ocean to the west of Perth. It was once part of the British Settlements and administered out of Singapore. ME10 activity was noted especially in the early eighties when the predominantly Muslim Malay population were asked to decide if they wanted to become an Australian territory governed by the Australian Commonwealth Government, or remain in the control of the Clunies-Ross family. The population voted in favour of the former. However , in a recent report on John Clunies-Ross, the former owner and administrator of the island, it was noted that in the past twenty years, even as they have come under the control of the Commonwealth Government, the islanders have become more Islamic in their ways, with many of the women now wearing the headscarf, and the men skull caps21. There appears therefore to have been Islamic evangelisation or dakwah activity on the island.
As mentioned above, the objective of the MILF and the PULO is the creation of a separate Malay-Muslim states, whereas the JI appear more ambitious and would seek to create a Malay-Muslim empire spanning the entire region.

The Malaysian Government on the other hand, which appears to have backed all three groups, seems to have as its objective the promotion of Malaysian Malay nationalism. As mentioned above, the Malaysian Constitution defines a Malaysian Malay, or bumiputera (son of the soil) as someone of the Islamic faith and who practises the customs and traditions of the Malay race.

Therefore, in promoting Malaysian Malay nationalism, the Malaysian Government also promotes Islam.

Therefore, there is alignment between the aspirations of the Malaysian Government and the three militant groups described above.

Indonesia ,the JI and Laskar Jihad

Prime Minister Thaksin has also accused Indonesian radicals, (but not the Indonesian Government) of being part of the source of troubles in Southern Thailand.

He has been quoted as saying :

"They (PULO and southern Thai Muslim separatists ) got (their) radical ideas from studying in Indonesia or from friends in Indonesia and then trained in Indonesia and Malaysia," 22

Here too, as is the case with Malaysia, the Indonesian government has taken offence.23
Indonesia has already been accused of at least providing passive support for various terrorist groups, including the JI, and of course these claims have been rejected by the Indonesian Government and some academics.24
More recently, the newly elected Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudyhono has declared that he will act again JI if there is proof that it exists.
However the honesty of the undertaking must be questioned in light of the following statements.
First, in May 2004, as reported in “ The Age “ :
"As an organisation, JI, I would say, does not exist in our list [of banned organisations] actually. But I do understand that men belonging to JI do exist in Indonesia. In our policy of combating terrorism we have to watch them. And if they are planning to commit crimes then we bring them to justice."25
Therefore the existence of JI has already been acknowledged , yet President Susilo now claims that he does not know if it exists.
Then more recently on Australian television, the following exchange between the President and one of his advisers was recorded, and screened nationally26 :
PRESIDENT SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO: And if I got strong legal evidence

that Jemaah Islamiyah does exist in Indonesia, I will of course ban that organisation.

SARAH FERGUSON: But the controversial re-trial of the organisation's leader Abu Bakar Bashir, which began the day after Yudhoyono's inauguration, demonstrated how difficult that may be.

In a telling moment with an advisor Yudhoyono revealed the sensitivities of dealing with two different audiences, the Australian and the domestic.

PRESIDENT SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO: [Subtitled.] But the recent trial

couldn't prove that Abu Bakar Bashir wasn't part of Jemaah Islamiyah. And she pressed me on this point. Is this sensitive?

PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: [Subtitled.] Maybe. It might be better if you didn't admit that Jemaah Islamiyah exists.

The President’s reluctance to act against the JI , and thus his tacit support for their activities, despite their implication in the Bali bombing is consistent with the manner in which the Indonesian Government has used Islam and militant Islamic groups to promote its own policy of Wawasan Nusantara and consistent with the fact that both the JI and the Indonesian Government share a common vision.
There are an increasing number of reports which suggest that the Indonesian armed forces have used militia groups who are predominantly Muslim and motivated by a desire to protect Indonesian sovereignty from attacks by the Christian west . East Timor and now West Papua are examples of this27.

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