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NGEOW Chow Bing: Regional and Cross-Regional Cooperation in Counter-terrorism: ASEAN and the SCO
September 12,2019   By:
Regional and Cross-Regional Cooperation in Counter-terrorism: ASEAN and the SCO
 
NGEOW Chow Bing
 
Malaysia
 
Abstract: This paper describes the legal instruments and experiences of regional organization in facilitating counter-terrorism cooperation, especially in the case of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is shown that since the September 11 attacks in 2001, there have been marked increases in the legal instruments and documents on counter-terrorism cooperation in ASEAN. The most comprehensive legal instrument has been the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism in 2007. Despite these efforts, the different legal and political frameworks, as well as the tradition of ASEAN Way (which very much values sovereignty and non-interference), has made genuine intergovernmental collaboration on counter-terrorism and deradicalization still relatively limited. Most of the efforts are still undertaken at the national level. 
 
Minilateral cooperation in certain situations are flourishing. There are also some purportedly regional counter-terrorism institutions, such as Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism (based in Malaysia), but their actual work however is mostly in the areas of capacity building rather than more concrete efforts in counter-terrorism cooperation. Another body is the Regional Digital Counter Messaging Communication Center, also based in Kuala Lumpur. The latter’s agency particularly takes note of the increasing use of social media by terrorists for recruitment purpose, and an effective battle against terrorists has to be waged at the digital front. All in all, while there have been achievements in ASEAN’s efforts in fostering regional counter-terrorism cooperation, much work remain to be done. 
 
Following the discussion on counter-terrorism cooperation of ASEAN, a brief mention will also be made to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO was established partly as a way to tackle the common challenges coming from terrorism, separatism, and extremism faced by all member-states. It is notable for having a more permanent anti-terrorist arm, called the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS). 
 
RATS especially incorporates the national police agencies of all member-states and has fostered a close network of genuine collaboration in counter-terrorism, together with attacking separatism and extremism. The unique environment facing the SCO states, as well as their similar political-legal traditions and security challenges, explain why there is more cohesion for regional counter-terrorism cooperation among SCO states. It is noted that while facing common terrorism challenges, the two major Asian regional organizations have not had much cooperation in this front. Transnational terrorist networks have become a challenge that is increasingly trans-regional in nature. 
 
While Europe and the United States have had extensive trans-atlantic counter-terrorism cooperation since the beginning of the 21st century, in Asia, counter-terrorism cooperation between the two largest regional organizations, the SCO and ASEAN, is basically non-existent. It is suggested here that some kind of cross-regional cooperation between these two organizations can be established. China and Malaysia are both important member-states respectively of the SCO and ASEAN, and could play a spearheading role in connecting the two regional organizations. 
 
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