Is Southeast Asia at risk of becoming a terror hotbed?
Southeast Asia faces growing risks from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) given its large Muslim population but strategists see several reasons why the region won’t become a hotbed for terrorism.
For one, Southeast Asia lacks the military and logistical connections that Europe enjoys with the Middle East as a result of geographical proximity, said Justin Hastings, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.
Like other parts of the world, terror groups in the region are mostly supporters of Al Qaeda or ISIS sympathizers. The most worrisome networks are in Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia—home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Within these three countries, more than 30 active groups have been pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, said Rohan Gunaratna, professor of security studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University.
While these local groups have inflicted damage, their reach remains limited for now.
“Generally speaking, the threat level from these regional groups is in the early stage, except for the immediate local area where they operate,” explained Gunaratna.
There is a third category of terrorists, comprising of ethno-nationalists in southern Thailand and the communist New People’s Army in the Philippines, but these aren’t widely considered major threats.