27 Nov 2019

13th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime – Statement by Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health

Honourable Chairman, Your Excellency Deputy Defence Minister, General Chaichan Changmongkol

Excellencies from ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat

Distinguished Delegates

Good afternoon.

 

Introduction

1.         On behalf of the Singapore delegation, I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the Thai Government for hosting this 13th AMMTC and its related meetings. We thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality.

 

2.         Our ASEAN today is a dynamic thriving region, with strong economic potential. But this success brings with it challenges, from increasingly complex threats of transnational crime.  I would like to focus on key threats, let me start with cybercrime.

 

Cybercrime

3.         Cybercrime continues to be an ever-growing challenge as technology becomes a pervasive part of our everyday lives in ASEAN and beyond. Cybercrime has no boundaries, and ASEAN has been hit by it. Therefore, cooperation among our member countries is vital in tackling this transnational threat.

 

4.         As the lead shepherd for Cybercrime in ASEAN, Singapore has identified four approaches to maintain a secure and resilient cyberspace environment for our region.

 

5.         First, the pursuit of a holistic cybercrime strategy involving strong policies, legislative frameworks and operational competencies. Second, to build regional capabilities through collaboration with strategic partners with relevant knowledge and expertise, such as INTERPOL.  Third, to strengthen international partnerships. This is where active cooperation and exchanges with our Dialogue Partners are important. Lastly, forge stronger Public-Private Partnerships with industry partners who are at the forefront of protecting commercial systems. In Singapore, we have established the Alliance of Public Private Cybercrime Stakeholders[1], or APPACT in short, this is a dedicated platform to enhance cybercrime awareness and foster active collaboration to prevent, deter and detect cybercrime. The members of APPACT include Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, PayPal, Twitter, telcos, local banks and web hosting companies.

 

6.         Singapore has also introduced several regional cybercrime initiatives in support of these strategies. I am pleased to share a few significant achievements. 

 

7.         The ASEAN Cyber Capability Desk or ASEAN Desk in short, has kick-started its work and has already launched two ongoing regional operations to target “cryptojacking” and a “web skimmer” campaign. Japan has approved USD 1.2 million in funding for the ASEAN Joint Operations against Cybercrime project, that the ASEAN Desk will drive. Three countries - Brunei, Vietnam and Singapore - have seconded officers to the ASEAN Desk and I strongly urge other ASEAN Member States to step forward and second your officers to the ASEAN Desk. This will enhance your country’s capabilities and strengthen our regional cybercrime efforts.

 

8.         Singapore worked with INTERPOL to implement Phase 1 of the ASEAN Cyber Capacity Development Project (ACCDP), which successfully concluded in April 2019. This was an exciting high value initiative. More than 250 participants from across ASEAN and over 25 trainers and experts from around the world participated in this two year plus project, which included capability building, such as specialised training on contemporary challenges posed by the Darknet and Cryptocurrencies, and on Digital Forensics. Under the ACCDP, INTERPOL made in-country visits to conduct National Cyber Reviews for all 10 ASEAN Member States, to help each country identify vulnerabilities within their national cyber infrastructure. 

 

9.         We are pressing forward to achieve more. I am pleased to announce the start of ACCDP Phase 2, with approximately USD 1.8 million funding from our strong partner, Japan. Phase 2 will address the gaps identified in the Cybercrime Reviews, and further enhance the capabilities of AMS. INTERPOL will be conducting in-country training to educate officers on responding to cybercrime and how to secure digital evidence. AMS can also look forward to specialised training, including a Cybercrime Workshop for Law Enforcement and Judicial Authorities, and specialised training on Darknet and Ransomware.

 

Illicit Drugs Trafficking

10.       The next transnational crime of concern is the worsening global drug situation. We are dealing with ongoing and emerging drug threats today, including the sale of drugs on the Darknet, and the proliferation of New Psychoactive Substances.

 

11.       As one ASEAN, we delivered a joint statement at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in 2016, at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs in 2016, and at the High-Level Ministerial Segment of the 62nd CND in March 2019. These statements reaffirm our strong collective commitment to securing a drug-free ASEAN.

 

12.       Singapore and like-minded countries are very concerned about the softening stance by some countries towards drugs, especially cannabis – the drug  most widely abused globally. In early 2019, the W.H.O. Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) made six recommendations on the international scheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances. The ECDD’s recommendations, if accepted by ASEAN and the CND, would signal to the world that cannabis is less harmful than before. This is a wrong message, because there is now robust evidence – such as from the Lancet study - on the harms of cannabis and the psychological, mental and physical toll it inflicts on the abuser, his or her life, work and family, and society at large. Against the backdrop of international lobbying efforts to legalise cannabis, the ECDD’s proposed rescheduling of cannabis will send the wrong message to the public, especially to our young.  We thus urge all ASEAN Member States to carefully assess these recommendations and its potential impact on the loosening of international controls on cannabis. ASEAN has consistently taken a unified position that we want a region free from drugs. We should continue on this path to ensure that our communities are safe from drugs, and that our future is safeguarded.

 

Terrorism

13.       Last but not least, terrorism remains a persistent threat. Despite the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the loss of its physical caliphate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) remains a resilient terrorist force with significant resources and a global network. Its extremist ideology continues to perpetuate in cyberspace and radicalise the minds of its sympathisers. We also have to deal with the threat from foreign militants travelling to Southeast Asia, terrorist fighters returning home with their families, and home-grown self-radicalised lone actors.

 

14.       Singapore spares no efforts to detect, uncover and bring these ISIS sympathisers to task.  Just last month in October, we convicted a 35-year-old Singaporean man for sending money overseas to a foreign preacher who was facilitating terrorist acts. He was the first Singaporean to be convicted of terrorism financing. He was radicalised and wanted to undertake armed violence in Syria in support of ISIS. In a separate case, we also charged three foreign domestic workers in October for collecting and providing money for the purpose of facilitating terrorist acts overseas. All three were radicalised and supported ISIS.

 

15.       Cooperation with our strategic partners is important to strengthen our regional CT efforts. INTERPOL’s Regional Counter-Terrorism Node for Asia and South Pacific, or RCTN in short, which is housed in the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore, has been set up to encourage the sharing and use of intelligence on terrorist activities in the region. The RCTN has access to INTERPOL’s databases and intelligence on terrorist activities, including information on FTFs, social media platforms used by terrorists, and even their travel patterns and modes of transport. The Singapore Police Force has seconded an officer to lead the RCTN team. We strongly encourage all ASEAN Member States to consider seconding suitable officers to the RCTN and make full use of its capabilities. 

 

16.       Within ASEAN, our regional cooperation is critical in the fight against terrorism. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to Indonesia, the ASEAN voluntary lead shepherd on CT, for driving efforts to establish a stronger ASEAN against terrorism.

 

Conclusion

 

17.       To conclude, ASEAN has made significant progress in our fight against transnational crime. Transnational crime, however, is dynamic and the threats will constantly evolve, bringing about new challenges of a different scale, form and complexity.

 

18.       As one ASEAN, we must remain united and resilient against these new and emerging threats. Let us continue to work together, and press forward to ensure a safer and more secure ASEAN.

 

19.       Thank you.

 



[1] The APPACT was established in February 2017 by SPF with 40 members. As of July 2019, the APPACT comprises of 52 members. The APPACT promotes the swift exchange of information  between enforcement agencies and private stakeholders. As a result, money-laundering attempts have been averted and other cybercrimes have been dealt with more expeditiously. Recently in June 2019, a team of 9 staff from Starhub assisted in police investigations in relation to a series of bomb threats made on an online portal. This resulted in a swift follow up by SPF to secure critical evidence for the identification of a potential suspect.

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