ASEAN’s efforts to address terrorism and transnational crime started even before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.  ASEAN adopted the Declaration on Transnational Crime in 1997 and an ASEAN Action Plan to Combat Transnational Crime in 1999 to implement the Declaration.  However, the attacks on the US in 2001 provided a strong impetus for the region to come together to fight terrorism and related crimes through cooperation at the multilateral, regional and bilateral levels.

The commitment to fight terrorism as a region was endorsed at the highest level when the Heads of State/Government of the 10 member countries of ASEAN adopted the 2001 ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism a their Seventh ASEAN Summit on 5 November 2001 in Brunei Darussalam.

The ASEAN Leaders viewed terrorism as a profound threat to international peace and security and “a direct challenge to the attainment of peace, progress and prosperity of ASEAN and the realization of ASEAN Vision 2020”.  They expressed commitment to combat terrorism in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, international laws and relevant UN resolutions.  They also stated that “cooperative efforts in this regard should consider joint practical counter-terrorism measures in line with specific circumstances in the region and in each member country”.

At the Eighth ASEAN Summit on 4 November 2002 in Phnom Penh, the ASEAN Leaders issues a Declaration on Terrorism, condemning the heinous terrorist attacks in Bali, Indonesia and in the cities of Zamboanga and Quezon in the Philippines.  They expressed the solidarity of their countries with Indonesia and the Philippines and ASEAN’s full support for their determined pursuit of the terrorist elements responsible for the attacks.  At the same time they deplored the tendency in some quarters to identify terrorism with particular religions or ethnic groups.

The ASEAN Leaders reiterated their determination to carry out and build on the specific measures outlined in the 2001 ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism.  They resolved to intensify their efforts, collectively and individually, to prevent, counter and suppress the activities of terrorist groups in the region.  Practical cooperative measures were to be pursued with the international community in fighting terrorism.


In the 2001 Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism, the following specific measures for ASEAN to implement the Declaration were outlined:

  • Review and strengthen national mechanisms to combat terrorism,;
  • Call for the early signing/ratification of or accession to all relevant anti-terrorist conventions, including the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism;
  • Deepen cooperation among ASEAN’s front-line law enforcement agencies in combating terrorism and sharing “best practices”;
  • Study relevant international conventions on terrorism with the view to integrating them with ASEAN mechanisms on combating international terrorism;
  • Enhance information/intelligence exchange to facilitate the flow of information, in particular, on terrorists and terrorist organizations, their movement and funding, and any other information needed to protect lives, property and the security of all modes of travel;
  • Strengthen existing cooperation and coordination between the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and other relevant ASEAN bodies in countering, preventing and suppressing all forms of terrorist acts.  Particular attention would be paid to finding ways to combat terrorist organizations, support infrastructure and funding and bringing the perpetrators to justice;
  • Develop regional capacity building programmes to enhance existing capabilities of ASEAN member countries to investigate, detect, monitor and report on terrorist acts;
  • Discuss and explore practical ideas and initiatives to increase ASEAN’s role in and involvement with the international community including extra-regional partners within existing frameworks such as the ASEAN + 3 (China, Japan and the RoK), the ASEAN Dialogue Partners and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), to make the fight against terrorism a truly regional and global endeavour; and
  • Strengthen cooperation at the bilateral, regional and international levels in combating terrorism in a comprehensive manner and affirm that at the international level the United Nations should play a major role in this regard.

The above specific measures have been incorporated in the Terrorism Component of the Work Programme to Implement the ASEAN Plan of Action to Combat Transnational Crime, adopted in May 2002.  The Work Programme is based on six strategic thrusts: information exchange; cooperation in legal matters; cooperation in law enforcement matters; institutional capacity building; training; and extra-regional cooperation.

In 2003, ASEAN’s training prorammes and projects in counter-terrorism include psychological operation/psychological warfare courses for law enforcement authorities and on intelligence procuring.  Courses on bomb/explosive detection, post-blast investigation, airport security and passport/document security and inspection are also planned.  In addition, a network of ASEAN national focal points on counter-terrorism has been established.


Several ASEAN Member Countries have already become party to some of the 12 international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism.  In the Work Programme, ASEAN Member Countries are encouraged to sign and /or ratify all relevant anti-terrorist conventions including the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

ASEAN is taking a comprehensive and coordinated approach in tackling the various areas of transnational crimes that have links to terrorism as the Work Programmme has also included cooperation in addressing trafficking in small arms, illegal drug trafficking and money laundering.  As part of the Terrorism Component of the ASEAN Work Programme, ASEAN Member Countries are now working on the establishment of a regional database for disseminating information on respective national laws, regulations, bilateral and multilateral treaties or agreements of respective countries.

The Terrorism Component, in addressing the issue of prevention and suppression of terrorist financing, calls for the enhancement of information/intelligence exchange to facilitate the flow of information, in particular, on terrorists and terrorist organizations, their movement and funding, and any other information needed to protect lives, property and the security of all modes of travel.

In addition, ASEAN senior officials are looking at the possibility of a regional convention to combat terrorism.  Several Member Countries within ASEAN are looking at a regional mutual legal assistance agreement.

The Annual Conference of ASEAN Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL) held in May 2002 in Phnom Penh, called for joint cooperation among the ASEANAPOL members in fighting terrorism.  The ASEAN Chief of Police were committed to developing capacity-building initiatives to ensure that each ASEANAPOL member has the capacity to effectively monitor, share information on and combat all forms of terrorist activities.  They agreed to enhance cooperation among law enforcement agencies through the sharing of experiences on counter-terrorism and the exchange of information on suspected terrorists, organizations and their modus operandi.

At the workshop on combating terrorism held in Jakarta in January 2003, ASEAN police and law enforcement officials agreed that each ASEAN Member Country shall establish an anti-terrorism task force to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism and to collaborate with the affected ASEAN Member Country following a terrorist attack.  Assistance requested can be in the form of, but not limited to identifying, pursuing and apprehending suspects, examination of witness(es), searching and seizing evidence, evacuating and treating of victims, forensic and crime laboratory.  The proposal was called “ASEAN Collaboration on Post Terrorist Attack”, and was endorsed by the 3rd Annual SOMTC, which was held in June 2003 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.

Indonesian will host the 2nd ASEAN Government Legal Officers Programme on Anti-Terrorism in August 2003, in Bali, which will discuss the possibility of criminalizing terrorist activities and harmonizing laws thereof in the ASEAN region and the possibility of establishing ASEAN Regional Operational Convention to Combat Terrorism.

ASEAN immigration authorities have agreed to assist and coordinate with the other ASEAN law enforcement authorities to prevent the movement of terrorists and deter cross-border terrorism by working toward the establishment of intelligence units in their respective agencies to tackle trafficking in persons, human smuggling and terrorism.  They have also set up an ASEAN focal point directory for ASEAN immigration authorities to exchange information.


Besides regional efforts, some ASEAN Member Countries have also engaged in sub-regional arrangements aimed at enhancing border security and combating subversive activities in their common borders.  In May 2002, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines signed the Agreement on Information Exchange and Establishment of Communication Procedures to cooperate in combating transnational crime, including terrorism.  Thailand and Cambodia have subsequently acceded to the Agreement.

In November 2002, Malaysia established the Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre.



At the 9th Ministerial Meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) IN Bandar Seri Begawan on 30 July 2002, the ARF Statement on Measures Against Terrorist Financing was adopted.  The ARF participating states and organization (the EU) agreed on concrete steps that included: freezing terrorist assets, implementation of international standards, cooperation on exchange of information and outreach, and technical assistance.

The 9th ARF also agreed to establish the inter-sessional meeting on counter-terrorism and transnational crimes (ISM-CT/TC), which will be co-chaired in the 2002-2003 year by Malaysia and the U.S.A.


The ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (ISM CT – TC) was held in Sabah in March 2003.  It focused on the movement of people; the movement of goods; and document security.  Several key ARF members tabled their priority areas on counter-terrorism measures.  In this regard, the US is currently providing technical support to several ARF countries on a wide range area of terrorism-related matters such as a post-blast and forensic investigation, training of swift response teams, border security software, detection of fraudulent documentation and terrorist interdiction programmes.
Several activities are in the pipeline including a workshop on aviation security, which will be co-organized by the US and Singapore in the latter half of 2003.  Australia and Singapore co-hosted a workshop in June 2003 in Darwin for ARF members on “Managing the Consequences of Terrorism” focusing on chemical, biological, radiological/nuclear attack in June 2003.

 ASEAN+3 Cooperation

ASEAN is cooperating with China, Japan and the Republic of Korea under the ASEAN+3 process of East Asia cooperation to address the threats of terrorism and transnational crimes.  The first ASEAN+3 Consultation was held in June 2003 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam, and will be followed by the AMMTC+3, in early January 2004, in pursuance to the decision of the 6th ASEAN+3 Summit held in Phnom Penh in November 2002.

The Consultation agreed that the ASEAN Secretariat would draft a concept paper on SOMTC Plus Three cooperation to combat transnational crime identifying the convergence in interest of ASEAN and the Plus Three Countries and outlining the next steps required.  The Concept Paper could cover the following elements and issues:

  • Areas of common interests of the ASEAN and Plus Three Countries;
  • Modalities for implementation of activities such as seminars, workshops and training;
  • Funding mechanisms along the principle of cost-sharing with some flexibility for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Viet Nam;
  • Establishing “lead shepherds” and focal points for the ASEAN Plus Three countries for each of the priority areas of cooperation agreed upon based upon consultations and on a voluntary basis; and
  • Project development.

The Meeting agreed that if necessary, the “lead shepherds” may convene “brain storming/expert sessions” to discuss specific proposals and programmes and activities.


The ASEAN Secretariat participated in a Special Meeting of the United Nations Security Council’s Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) in New York, in March 2003.  The meeting focused on three main agenda items namely global standards on counter-terrorism; the role of regional and sub-regional organizations in strengthening global counter-terrorism capacity; and the role of international and regional organizations on assistance including the gaps in the provision of counter terrorism assistance especially with regards to UN SC Resolution 1373 and enhancing information exchange.

Upon the request of the UN-CTC, the Secretariat identified some areas on counter terrorism activities where assistance is required:

  • Legislative drafting on counter-terrorism and suppression of terrorism financing;
  • Drafting a possible regional convention on counter-terrorism;
  • Establishing a database on terrorism and other transnational crimes (to include legislation, studies and reports on transnational crime); and
  • Combating bio-terrorism.

The UN CTC has taken note of these requests and simultaneously the ASEAN Secretariat followed up on initial offers of assistance by some organizations.  Subsequently a consultation between the IMF, World Bank and some ASEAN Member Countries on capacity building to combat money laundering and terrorist financing was organized by the Secretariat during the Workshop on Money Laundering in Kuala Lumpur I July 2003.
ASEAN – China

At the 6th ASEAN-China Summit in Phnom Penh on 4 November 2002, the ASEAN Leaders and the Prime Minister of China issued the Joint Declaration of ASEAN and China on Cooperation in the Field of Non-Traditional Security Issues.  Terrorism has been included as one of the priorities for the ASEAN-China cooperation.

As a follow up to the Declaration, ASEAN – China Consultation was held in Ha Noi in June 2003.  The Consultation agreed on a number of measures for cooperation, namely: to identify priority and potential areas for joint actions and to enhance communication; to adopt ASEAN-China long-term and mid-term cooperation plans in the field of non-traditional security issues; and to establish ad-hoc working groups to implement concrete cooperative measures.

As a means to realize the above cooperation, an ASEAN-China Workshop on Law Enforcement Cooperation against Transnational Crime will be convened from 24 to 30 August 2003 in Beijing, China.


ASEAN and the EU issued the Joint Declaration on Cooperation to Combat Terrorism at the end of the 14th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Brussels on 28 January 2003.  The Joint Declaration reiterated the commitment of the two sides to work together and contribute to the global efforts to stamp out terrorism.

As a follow to the Declaration, an ASEAN-EU Consultation was held in Ha Noi in June 2003.  During the Consultation, both ASEAN and the EU stressed the desire for a regional approach and agreed to focus their cooperative efforts particularly in the following areas: technical assistance and capacity building in regional counter-terrorism operations and systems; border security, including travel document security and combating trafficking in persons particularly in women and children; immigration border control including customs procedures; cooperation among law enforcement agencies; programmes/projects on anti-money laundering and suppression of terrorist financing; new techniques/technologies to combat money laundering; adoption of international anti-money laundering standards and exchange of best practices; development of Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs), exchange of experts and bank regulators; funding for computer equipment and software for FIUs; and training for bankers specifically in reporting of suspicious transactions.

To implement the above cooperation, the European Commission agreed to undertake an assessment mission under the Rapid Reaction Mechanism (RRM) to the region, including the ASEAN Secretariat and other relevant regional institutions.  ASEAN and EU will jointly organize the assessment mission, based upon an agreed Terms of Reference.


ASEAN and the US signed the Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism during the 35th AMM/PMC in Bandar Seri Begawan on 1 August 2002.  One of the objectives of the cooperation is to prevent, disrupt and combat international terrorism through the exchange and flow of information, intelligence and capacity-building assistance.

In pursuance to the ASEAN-US Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism the First ASEAN-US Consultation was held in June 2003 in Ha Noi, Viet Nam.  During the Consultation an ASEAN-US Work Plan on Counter-Terrorism was endorsed in-principle.  The Work Plan will focus on several areas of cooperation: information sharing; enhance liaison relationships; capacity building through training and education; transportation, border, and immigration control; and to develop the legal, financial regulatory, financial intelligence, law enforcement, and prosecutorial capabilities and institutions to effectively combat terrorism financing.


ASEAN and its member countries are committed at the highest level to fighting terrorism bilaterally, regionally and multilaterally.  In adopting a comprehensive approach to the problem, ASEAN will also address the root causes of terrorism through regional integration and narrowing of the development gaps among member countries so that the measures employed will be effective and will bring sustainable results.  In doing so, ASEAN would require the continued support and cooperation as well as understanding of its dialogue partners and the international community.