Published: 31 October 2018
Honourable Chairman, Your Excellency Union Minister for Home Affairs, Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe, Excellencies from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.
2. On behalf of the Singapore delegation, I would like to extend my appreciation to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar for hosting the 12th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) and its related meetings. We thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality.
3. Transnational crime pose a threat to the safety and security of our countries and the region we live in. Today, in the face of globalisation, technological advancement and greater mobility of people across borders, the threat of transnational crime has escalated. It has taken on new forms and grown in complexity, as transnational criminals improvise and innovate new modus operandi of committing crimes.
4. As individual countries, we have stepped up our efforts and enhanced our capabilities to respond to these new and emerging crime threats. But our response to these threats should also extend beyond our national boundaries. Transnational crimes require transnational interventions. ASEAN needs to band together, enhance our capabilities, intensify our cooperation, and forge united and formidable prevention and response capabilities to tackle the rising and changing threat of transnational crime.
5. ASEAN today is a dynamic thriving region, with strong economic potential. But this success will also bring with it transnational crime threats. Let me touch on the key threats – terrorism, cybercrime and illicit drug trafficking.
THREAT OF TERRORISM
6. Terrorism remains a clear and present danger to all of us in ASEAN. The series of recent terror incidents, from the siege by Islamic State-linked militants in Marawi last year to the attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia this year, show a few things:
a. First, that the threat of terrorism has reached a persistent level;
b. Second, the terrorism threat is real and close. In fact, it is at our doorstep.
c. Third, the form and nature of the terror threat has evolved over time. We are seeing largely decentralised groups, in the form of sleeper cells, and lone wolf attacks. There is also increasing use of social media, and new and more sophisticated methods of recruitment, contributing to easier and quicker radicalisation of individuals.
7. Terrorism can only be defeated by a sustained and comprehensive approach at the national and international levels.
8. In Singapore, we have introduced new operational response capabilities, such as the Emergency Response Teams, Rapid Deployment Troops and In-Situ Response Teams, to respond swiftly to an attack. We have also reviewed and amended our laws to ensure that we have the necessary powers to deal with a terror incident. Most importantly, the Government partners our people to keep Singapore safe and secure.
9. Singapore has also organised capability building initiatives to help us collectively deal with emerging security threats. Together with INTERPOL, we hosted the ASEAN Counter-Terrorism Conference on Aviation Security 2018 from 31 July to 1 August. The conference brought together participants from ASEAN, and speakers from the U.S., Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore to share and exchange their experience and best practices on counter-terrorism (CT) strategies and security measures.
10. Earlier this month, Singapore organised a 2-day Counter Terrorism Symposium for ASEAN Member States. Titled “The 2018 Southeast Asia Counter-Terrorism Symposium: A Collective Approach”, the Symposium discussed the current threats of terrorism today and how ASEAN can deal with this evolving threat.
11. The AMMTC has made significant progress to strengthen our regional CT efforts. The adoption of the Manila Declaration to Counter the Rise of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism last year, followed by the subsequent development of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalisation to implement the Manila Declaration are steps in the right direction. The ASEAN Plan of Action will be tabled for approval at this AMMTC and I look forward to its adoption. It will chart the way forward for regional cooperation in ASEAN against terrorism.
12. I am also pleased to see that it has been endorsed ad-referendum for the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) to be the lead coordinator in CT matters across ASEAN. Again, this is a positive development. SOMTC, supporting the AMMTC, has done much work in this CT area. This will give us the mandate to push ahead with further initiatives and deliverables to fortify our defence and resilience against terrorism.
13. Next, I will touch on cybercrime. Similar to terrorism, cybercrime is a persistent and growing threat that has the potential to disrupt our lives and societies. There are also increasing complexities to the problem of cybercrime, worsened by new technology and the growing pervasiveness of the internet, social media, and mobile technology. Online crimes are extremely challenging to solve due to the borderless nature of the crime and the anonymity that the internet and social media provides to criminals.
14. As the ASEAN Lead Shepherd for Cybercrime, Singapore has introduced new initiatives to raise the preparedness and response capabilities of ASEAN member states against cybercrime. In July this year, Singapore hosted a series of cybercrime-related capability development events alongside the RSA Conference Asia Pacific and Japan. The week-long event comprised the ASEAN Plus Three Cybercrime Workshop and the 5th ASEAN Senior Officials Roundtable on Cybercrime. These events saw fruitful discussions and renewed ASEAN’s commitment to cooperate to tackle cybercrime. Singapore also hosted the ASEAN Cybercrime Prosecutors’ Roundtable Meeting, as part of the Singapore International Cyber Week, from 18 to 20 September. The Meeting facilitated discussions on how ASEAN could strengthen our cyber laws to deal with the challenges of an evolving cyber landscape, and also fostered closer cooperation between the legal and the law enforcement communities.
15. With strong funding support from Japan, INTERPOL has been successfully running the 2-year ASEAN Cyber Capacity Development Project (ACCDP) which Singapore initiated. Recent activities this year included Specialised Training on Darknet and Cryptocurrencies in May and also Digital Forensics Training in July. To-date, the ACCDP has brought together more than 250 participants from across ASEAN and more than 25 trainers and expert speakers from around the world. Additionally, the ACCDP provides resources to conduct National Cyber Reviews through in-country visits across ASEAN, to help each country identify vulnerabilities in their national cyber infrastructure - with the larger objective of strengthening the whole national ecosystem to combat cybercrime. I urge countries that have yet to undergo the Cyber Review to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the experts.
16. I am also pleased to update that the ASEAN Desk on Cybercrime was launched in the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in July this year. This ASEAN desk will tap on INTERPOL’s resources, to drive ASEAN-centric joint operations against cybercrime. I strongly urge all ASEAN member states to lend your support by seconding an officer to the IGCI so that we can kick start the operations of the Desk for ASEAN’s direct and immediate benefit. It would be a meaningful and worthwhile investment in an operational project bringing valuable returns to each country.
ILLICIT DRUG TRAFFICKING
17. Lastly, I will touch on the major challenges we face with illicit drugs.
18. The global drug situation presents many challenges to ASEAN. There are ongoing and emerging drug threats, such as the sale of drugs on the Darknet, and the development of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). Of concern, there are also countries which are adopting a softer stance towards drug use for recreational purposes. We should not agree to this. It is a slippery slope into a pit of deeper more difficult problems, including impacting our youth. Drug liberalisation approaches and policies will expose our society to drugs, and inevitably give rise to prevalence of drugs in our societies, particularly among our youths. This will degenerate into a vicious circle, where we would only see more rampant drug abuse and addiction in our societies. And of course the proceeds from the sale and trafficking of drugs would only serve to fuel and perpetuate other forms of criminal activities and transnational crimes.
19. We should continue to aspire and persevere towards reaching our goal of a drug-free ASEAN. Slightly more than a week ago, I attended the 6th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters in Hanoi, Vietnam. I was very heartened to see ASEAN unity and solidarity at that meeting against drugs. All ASEAN member states stood firm, rejecting the legalisation of controlled drugs and unanimously endorsed the Joint ASEAN Statement Against Legalisation of Controlled Drugs that would be presented at the inter-sessional meeting at the Commission of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in November. The ASEAN voice will be heard – we must stand firm against the threat of drugs because we want a drug-free ASEAN.
20. Chairman and colleagues, let me conclude. ASEAN has made significant strides in our fight against transnational crime. We have done well. However transnational crime is not static. It will persist. The threats are constantly evolving and the challenges will continue to grow, in scale, form and complexity.
21. Collectively, as ASEAN, we need to remain united and resilient against these new and emerging threats; we need to enhance our cooperation and collaboration; and we need to be innovative to beat the criminals at their game. Let us work together towards a safer and more secure ASEAN for all.
22. Thank you.