KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, also known as Mat Sabu, believes terrorism is the number one security risk facing the country.
In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, he said Southeast Asian nations need to band together to combat this threat.
"We have terrorists in ASEAN, like those involved in the Bali bombings, as well as other citizens from countries in ASEAN," he said.
"We have to cooperate with each other to combat this issue ... through psychology, through education and of course through (the sharing of) any information from Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand..."
The previous Barisan Nasional government had arrested hundreds of people for alleged terrorist links. Authorities said they had foiled more than a dozen attacks in recent years too aside from the launching of a grenade that injured eight people at the Movida bar in 2016. Two individuals were each sentenced to 25 years' jail over the attack.
To curb the spread of extremism, Mat Sabu believes religious and civic education is important.
"At the same time, we have the army, police, and other security forces ever ready to face all the threats to the security of Malaysia," he said.
The minister said one regional effort forged under the previous government that will continue is the joint air and sea patrols between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia in the Sulu Sea.
The waters are known as a hotbed for piracy and have been used by terrorists to travel between the borders of the three nations.
"(The patrols) are very good and will solve a lot of problems in that area," the minister said.
TROOPS TO LEAVE SAUDI ARABIA
Meanwhile, Malaysia has decided to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia - although no date has been determined yet for this.
Last week, Mat Sabu said the government was considering withdrawing the military from Saudi Arabia as their presence there had "indirectly mired Malaysia in the Middle East conflict". This, even though they had only been deployed there by the previous government to evacuate Malaysians from war-torn Yemen.
"We want to maintain our neutrality where we are good friends with all the
countries," the minister told Channel NewsAsia.
"We have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia, we also have a good relationship with Yemen, we have so many students in Yemen ... we have good relations with Iran. We also want to have good relations with Iraq, Syria, Qatar," he added.