Terrorism in Southeast Asia, More Than Just JI
Terrorism in Southeast Asia, More Than Just JI
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Terrorism in Southeast Asia, More Than Just JI

The members of the U.S. 9/11 Commission included in their report that "Southeast Asia, from Thailand to the southern Philippines to Indonesia" remains a likely base for terrorist activities. The first question is whether this is true. The second is what can be done about it.

If one focuses solely on the Jemaah Islamiyah organization, responsible for the Bali blasts of October 12, 2002 and a wave of other bombings across Indonesia and the Philippines, the truth is that it has been seriously damaged. Its top leaders are under arrest or on the run. Planning and coordination has become far more difficult, with sophisticated monitoring of mobile phone and electronic communications. Outside funding seems to have dried up. The network has been well-infiltrated by informants. And despite the fact that several of the most wanted bomb-makers seem to have hidden out in the heavily populated Indonesian island of Java for the last two years, there are some indications that the support base for these men is shrinking. The fear of being tainted as terrorists has led some previously sympathetic Islamic schools to shut their doors to known militants.

To be sure, JI recruitment continues in Indonesia, and training is ongoing in Java and the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. But it will not be easy to replicate the nearly two decades of experience that the top leadership had garnered from their years in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s onwards. It will also be tough to rebuild the trust that allowed "special operations" to be planned and executed in secrecy.

But no one should be complacent:

  • Some JI leaders with lethal skills appear to have become freelance instructors to other groups.
  • The network of like-minded jihadist groups in the region, while tiny in terms of overall numbers, is in a perpetual flux of growth, decay, and mutation. New groups are emerging, old ones are regrouping, and alliances are constantly shifting. It would be a huge mistake to focus only on JI.
  • Suicide bombing is now an established tactic in the region, and the hardest to prevent.
  • Porous borders, traditional trading networks, huge migrant labor flows, and endemic corruption all combine to thwart counter-terror measures.
  • Anger at the West, over Palestine and Iraq in particular, ensures continued support for radical interpretations of jihad, although this anger at the West is so widespread that it becomes less of an explanatory factor as to why some groups turn to violence and others don't.
  • Southeast Asian jihadists are not just interested in Southeast Asia. They also draw inspiration from the conflicts in Chechnya and Kashmir, and particularly for those who study in Pakistan and the Middle East, the possibility of recruitment into non-Southeast Asian radical organizations exists.

The international response to the ongoing threat has been to try to beef up the capacities of local intelligence and law enforcement agencies and to throw donor money at Muslim schools. The first is badly needed, although it will likely be more useful for strengthening the ability to go after people who have already used violence, or who are part of known networks, than to accurately predict new developments.

The second can't hurt, but it seems too often to be based on a few faulty assumptions. One is that poverty breeds radicalism, and that in many parts of the Muslim world, parents send their children to radical schools because no other education is available. The 9/11 Commission itself makes this point, writing with regards to Pakistan that "many of these schools are the only opportunity available for an education." While this may be true in Pakistan, it's not in Indonesia, where many JI members come from middle class families. Another assumption is that most of the recruitment into radical groups takes place in radical schools, whereas as much if not more goes on in mosques, after school hours, or on university campuses. A third assumption is that by increasing aid to moderate Muslim institutions, the message of radical jihadism will somehow get diluted. But there is a host of historical and political factors involved in why the radical message appeals to different groups at different times, and trying to create kinder, gentler militants through donor aid is likely to have limited success.

So what's the alternative? A part of any strategy has got to look at the local factors that give rise to terror in the first place. In Indonesia, the organization that later became JI was forged in the mid-1980s, but it wasn't until 2000 that its operatives undertook any bombings. It wasn't the 1998 fatwa from al-Qaeda, urging attacks on the U.S. and its allies, that tipped them over the edge -- it was the outbreak of communal violence at home. Christian-Muslim fighting in Ambon and Poso proved a more potent recruiting tool than all the other training, indoctrination, and funding put together.

The international community has got to work with Indonesia to ensure that communal tensions are better managed and that hotspots are identified before they erupt. Ambon and Poso continue to be beset by sporadic violence, but they aren't the only danger zones. Ultimately, a jihad at home serves the interests of terrorists far more than one abroad because defense of fellow Muslims becomes defense of family and friends. Not only recruitment, but also fund-raising becomes much easier.

In the Philippines, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had trained with JI for some time, but they appeared to find joint operations far more attractive after heavy-handed military assaults in 2000 and 2003 led to deep skepticism about the government's good faith in pursuing negotiations. It is the peace process itself now that may hold the key to making Mindanao less hospitable to terrorists. The MILF needs to hold local commanders accountable and find ways to end the ad hoc training camps for jihadists from around the region. The government needs to offer a credible autonomy package and enforce it. Failure of the current round of negotiations would be an immediate boost to the hardliners on both sides.

Terrorists don't create local conflicts -- they exploit them. The sources of those conflicts are very different in Indonesia, southern Thailand, and the Philippines, and the nature of the grievances behind them extraordinarily complex. There is not a one-size-fits-all anti-terrorist remedy, and there is no prospect of a quick solution. JI had a 25-year action plan. So should we.

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

My four year-old daughter recently came home from her Jakarta kindergarten with a story about a visit to the school from the head of our local police station. 'If there is a robber and he's running away, the policeman will pull out his gun, fire in the air, and if he doesn't stop then he will shoot him in the leg', she recounted breathlessly.

I have spent 25 years working in and around conflict zones, including more than a decade in Indonesia. My reaction might not have been that of the average parent. 'That', I replied, 'is a violation of Perkap Number 8.' Needless to say, my reference to Police Regulation Number 8 of 2009 regarding Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police was lost on her. She thought the visit was great.

I had recalled Perkap 8 when re-reading the Hansard of the recent sparring between Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr and Victoria Greens Senator Richard Di Natale over the police shooting of protesters in Papua. But it is not just in Papua where questionable use of deadly force by the Indonesian National Police (INP) takes place. It happens across the country. And this was what Perkap 8 was put in place to prevent.

Article 47 of Perkap 8 says that 'the use of firearms shall be allowed only if strictly necessary to preserve human life' and 'firearms may only be used by officers: a. when facing extraordinary circumstances; b. for self defense against threat of death and/or serious injury; c. for the defense of others against threat of death and/or serious injury.' This is Indonesian law, taken from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and this is what should be used to assess police actions, wherever in the country they occur.

The fatal shooting on 14 June 2012 of Mako Tabuni, deputy head of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), in Jayapura, capital of Papua province, made Senate Estimates in 2012. The shooting of three protesters in Sorong on 30 April 2013, West Papua province, was mentioned in the testy 5 June 2013 exchanges between Senators Carr and Di Natale. You can watch it above.

In the first incident, detectives shot a suspect in the leg as he was running away and then left him to die in a hospital allegedly without making any effort to treat his wounds. In the second, police claim they were threatened by armed KNPB activists. Without more information it is difficult to judge if their response was disproportionate. Police always say they are shooting in self-defense, but it has become such a common excuse that it has started to lose its plausibility.

Cases outside Papua do not garner much attention in Australia, but lethal shootings happen all the time. On 1 September 2011 seven villagers were killed during a rowdy protest against police brutality in the Central Sulawesi district of Buol, a place so obscure even most Indonesians cannot find it on a map.

On 7 March 2013, soldiers burned down a police station in Baturaja, South Sumatra, after their off-duty comrade, First Private Heru Oktavianus, was shot dead by a police officer while speeding away from a traffic violation.

On 8 May 2013 police in Java killed six suspected terrorists in a series of raids. The police usually claim the suspects were armed and resisted arrest. But it is not always true, and many could have almost certainly been captured alive.

Ordinary criminals are shot with distressing frequency, as my daughter's visitor suggests, without any outcry at home or abroad.

Perkap 8 was signed by the then police chief Sutanto, a real reformer. It has not gotten very far. One foreign police officer working on a bilateral community policing program in a large metropolitan command told me he had once seen a copy of the Perkap on the chief's desk but suspected it had been disseminated no further.

Even when progressive regulations or orders are issued and disseminated, they are not always followed. In October 2012, the police chief of Papua, Tito Karnavian, former head of the anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88), announced that he had banned police from using live ammunition when handling demonstrations in the region. This was progress and it was implemented for some demos, but the deaths in the Sorong case suggest live ammunition was used.

As Article 46 of Perkap 8 says, 'all officers must be trained in the use of power, equipment and firearms that can be used in applying force' and 'must be trained in non-violent techniques and methods.' Training almost 400,000 officers across 33 provinces is a logistical challenge, though it might be a good idea to start with elite units such as Densus 88 or personnel in the Papua provinces.

The new national head of the INP, about to be appointed, might breathe new life into two reforms already in place: implementation of Perkap 8 and Chief Sutanto's other landmark regulation on community policing, Perkap 7. The INP is a very hierarchical organisation that does follow firm orders from above. While its size makes complex reform difficult, its hierarchical nature makes implementing existing regulations with firm orders easier.

The first duty of the incoming INP chief, who reports directly to the president, will be to secure the 2014 elections. Making sure those deployed to safeguard this 'festival of democracy' are properly trained and equipped to use non-lethal force will be an important first step. After a new head of state is elected, he or she should consider issuing a directive that would see Perkap 8 properly implemented. The use of less deadly force could even be politically popular in some parts.

Outside help may also be needed, and this is where Australia comes in. A few decades back, the Victorian state police had a problem of using too much deadly force and created Project Beacon to try to rectify it. They changed the way they thought about the problem, overhauled training, and gave officers on the beat new tools, like pepper spray. Foreign assistance along these lines could help the INP improve performance and increase accountability. Crisis Group has long argued that the INP needs better orders, training, and equipment for the use of non-deadly force.

If the INP is to be more the service it aspires to be rather than the force it is, it needs to shed its military mindset, hold serious post-operation reviews after each fatal incident, and decrease reliance on shooting first and asking questions later, regardless of whether officers are following locally accepted standard procedure. When the time comes and the INP is ready to carry forward the reform of Perkap 8, Australia should be there to help.

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