Australia and the 10 member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to join forces in the region’s fight against extremism and terrorism financing.
The provisions of the MOU have Australia and ASEAN working together to develop counter- terrorism measures through the legislative process and in accordance with international standards and best practices.
Australia hopes that with the new agreement with ASEAN, it would be possible to engage in multilateral exchange programs to develop financial intelligence analysts. Both sides seek more opportunities for regional dialogue and forums for their representatives in law enforcement.
The MOU was in response to the ever-increasing threat of terrorism which has evolved to incorporate digital technology in the arsenal of terrorists and extremists. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull expressed his concern that terrorists are finding new ways to finance their operations: digital currencies, stored value cards and through crowdfunding activities:
“We have seen that very, very graphically, where the detailed instructions about the preparation of a weapon was transmitted over encrypted applications from Syria to an individual here in Australia. So we have to be constantly alert; constantly working with our neighbours in the region.”
The MOU was signed by Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and ASEAN Secretary- General Lim Jock Hoi. Witnesses for the signing included Turnbull and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
For his part, Malaysian PM Najib Rajak shared his belief that the fight versus terrorism should likewise cover social media:
“This is our new main battleground – to win the hearts and minds of our youth through social media so that they do not easily succumb to the warped, perverse and evil ideology of Daesh.”
Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Other than the renewed fight versus terrorism, Australia unveiled future projects and undertakings the country plans to propose to ASEAN. Among these projects include the establishment of a new ASEAN – Australia Infrastructure Skills Dialogue for the purpose of improving the capabilities and competencies of talent in the region.