Improving counter-terrorism skills in Southeast Asia

INTERPOL has concluded a three-year programme (2014-2017) to enhance the counter-terrorism investigation skills of countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Through the INTERPOL Capacity Building Programme on Improving Counter-Terrorism and International Collaboration in ASEAN Member States (CT-ASEAN), key actors including law enforcement, border and immigration agencies, forensic experts, investigators  and national decision-makers undertook specialized training on conducting collaborative counter-terrorism investigations.

The programme, jointly funded by INTERPOL and the Government of Canada, also increased information sharing amongst law enforcement agencies in the region to boost their ability to identify potential threats.

Some 10 workshops and 14 specialized training courses conducted for more than 550 law enforcement officers across the 10 ASEAN countries focused on three key areas: forensic techniques, investigative skills and INTERPOL’s data sharing mechanisms including the I-link platform and Rules on the Processing of Data. The training was complemented by two on-the-ground border security operations, providing participants with the opportunity to immediately apply their new skills in a real-life setting.  

Building upon the successful outcomes of this first CT-ASEAN programme, a second phase began in April 2017 which will continue to further develop the skills and capabilities of law enforcement across the region.

One of the most important activities of the CT-ASEAN programme were the border security actions, called ‘Operation Sunbird’, conducted in 2015 and 2016 where passengers and travel documents were screened at airports and border points. Between the two operations, more than 5 million searches were conducted against INTERPOL’s databases, resulting in 87 positive matches including the identification and arrest of 13 internationally wanted fugitives and the publication of nine INTERPOL notices.

Due to the enhanced border presence during the Sunbird II operation in 2016, five separate drug seizures leading to the arrest of five individuals occurred at the seaport in Batam, Indonesia. Additionally, following several reported seizures of drugs smuggled into Indonesia by persons travelling via ferry from Malaysia, a message was sent to the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) in Malaysia informing them of this modus operandi with the view to increasing their law enforcement presence at these ports.

In line with the counter-terrorism focus of the programme, the operations also led to the further exchange of intelligence between member countries in the region and beyond. This led, for example, to the arrest and deportation from South Korean of two Indonesian nationals with suspected ties to IS, and also to the sharing of information on two vessel hijacking incidents claimed by Abu Sayyaf.

“The last few years have seen significant milestones in INTERPOL-ASEANAPOL relations, notably in our cooperation on capacity building and training initiatives and on joint cross-border operations in addressing transnational crimes,” said Ferdinand Bartolome, ASEANAPOL’s Director of Police Services.

“These developments underscore the enduring partnership between the two organizations, working together towards a common objective of ensuring peace and prosperity for all.”

“Canada’s cooperation with ASEAN and INTERPOL to fight terrorism is a reflection of Canada’s understanding that these are issues that must be faced together. I am especially pleased with the strong involvement of female officers, who have a crucial role to play in all forms of law enforcement. Canada has been, and will continue to be, a committed partner to strengthening security in the ASEAN region.”

Marie Louise Hannan, Ambassador of Canada to ASEAN.

“Through this comprehensive capacity building programme, INTERPOL has forged strong relationships with its member countries in the ASEAN region, providing vital training to ensure their law enforcement agencies are fully equipped to tackle a broad range of security threats. We will continue to deliver state-of-the-art training and technical assistance throughout Southeast Asia and beyond to send a strong message to terrorists and criminals: you are not welcome here.”

INTERPOL’s Director of Capacity Building and Training, Harold O’Connell

Kiho Cha, Security Council Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations

PHILIPPINES: Josue Jasper T. Oreas, Port Operations Division, Philippines Bureau of Immigration

Hac Duc Quang, INTERPOL Hanoi

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