Diversity of cultures influences counter terror measures

"Diversity of cultures, forms of societies, economic, political and social conditions vary among nations in Southeast Asia and these influence on how several Asean members craft their anti-terror policies," Kraft said in his input on 'Framing Counterterrorism Policy in the Context of Southeast Asia,' on Day 2 of the three-day Conference on Counterterrorism Measures and Development in South and Southeast Asia.

Malaysia and Singapore view terrorism as a matter of police action while Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand employ its military forces to quell terrorist acts, Kraft said.

In the case of Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, counterterrorism measures are being conducted through counter insurgency (COIN) measures framework, said Kraft.

Last Monday, Sec. Jesus Dureza, outgoing Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) told participants to the conference that the government is now considering adopting the COIN strategy in its counterterrorism drive, especially in Southern Philippines.

"We are now slowly drifting away from the usual GWOT (global war on terror) to COIN," Dureza said adding that governments, including the Philippines, need inputs from civil society organizations in framing a common definition of terrorism. 

Kraft said categorizing terrorists is also a problem among Asean member countries since "it depends on how governments see terrorism." Most of the countries in the region holds on the "traditional view of terrorists as shadowy, unorganized, and with no structures" while others view terrorists based on the prescription of the US after 9/11. 

"Yet, even when there are differences in framing a common policy for counterterrorism the common denominator is that huge amount of resources are being set aside to promote counterterrorism measures in all Asean countries," said Kraft.

According to Kraft, the huge amount of state resources is being funneled to the states' military operations thus "augmenting their capacities to undertake militarization." This kind of paradigm tends to enforce suppression of legal dissent with implication to human rights in the countries of Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

However, the ASEAN  as a regional formation, can be a platform where CSOs can take advantage of, especially in relation to the promotion and protection of human rights in the region, Kraft said.

In 1993, ASEAN members crafted a document that "opened the opportunity for adopting an Asean convention on human rights.” However,  the commitment is yet to be implemented by the ASEAN members, who are known for having a "record of non-compliance to agreements" and the "practice of non-intervention among member-countries."

Kraft said CSOs in the region "enjoy a degree of space within the ASEAN" and this can provide opportunities for regional CSOs to engage it in adopting measures that promote social justice in the context of counterterrorism measures.

Addressing issues of injustice, protection of human rights, and non-labeling of terrorists among ASEAN members is an agenda that can be brought forward by CSOs in their critical engagement with the regional grouping, Kraft said.

The conference here is the organized by Cordaid, Western Mindanao State University, the Mindanao Peaceweavers, and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID).On May 29, participants are to meet government leaders in a policy dialogue in Manila.Around 50 participants representing development organizations from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, are attending the conference. (Rick R. Flores/MindaNews)