Southeast Asian nations launch intelligence pact to counter terrorism threats

Southeast Asian nations launch intelligence pact to counter terrorism threats

Our Eyes Initiative launch
Representatives from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore at the soft launch of the Our Eyes Initiative in Bali. (Photo: MINDEF)

JAKARTA: Singapore and five other Southeast Asian nations launched an intelligence pact on Thursday (Jan 25) aimed at improving regional counter-terrorism efforts.

Under the Our Eyes Initiative (OEI), the countries involved will "explore ways to exchange strategic information on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism", the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a news release. 

Dr Maliki Osman, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Defence, was in Bali for the soft launch of the OEI.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Dr Maliki said that "Singapore is committed to strengthening regional cooperation to combat the rising threat of terrorism". 

The five other countries involved are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. 

Under the initiative, senior defence officials will meet every two weeks to swap information on militant groups and develop a common database of violent extremists, Reuters reported. 

The intelligence sharing arrangement comes after insurgents aligned to Islamic State laid siege to the southern Philippine city of Marawi last year, the report added.

"This is something that seems so simple, but the effect is extraordinary," Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu was cited as saying at the soft launch. 

Ryacudu said intelligence sharing would help ensure another incident like Marawi did not occur and prevent the region from "becoming like the Middle East".

He added that the intelligence sharing was "specifically for (combating) terrorism and radicalism".

While led by military forces, the intelligence sharing would "involve all parties", including the police, he said. 

Ryacudu said other nations could be invited to join the OEI intelligence network, whose name is inspired by the Five Eyes long-standing intelligence alliance between the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

As well as other ASEAN nations, Ryacudu identified the United States, Australia and Japan as possible future members.

Source: Reuters/CNA/ng