In a follow-up to his Khabar Southeast Asia February interview, Indonesian journalist and terrorism expert Solahudin talks about the regional extremist threat and how radicals take to Facebook to communicate among themselves.
Khabar: Does terrorism in the Philippines and Thailand have similar roots as in Indonesia?
Solahudin: What I understand is that there are two major groups in the Philippines. One was established by former combatants in Afghanistan. The second group, the Rajah Sulaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM), was founded by Ahmed Santos, a Filipino who became radicalised while living in Saudi Arabia.
The first group is influenced by the Abu Sayyaf group, which led them to terrorism. They are different from the one in Thailand, which is not involved in global jihad.
The one in Thailand is more of an insurgency. There was once an Al-Qaeda Southeast Asian branch based in Malaysia that tried to enter the Deep South but failed. From what I have learned, the groups in Thailand, especially in Pattani, are not interested in what Al-Qaeda offered.
They are busy with their own agenda. That is why going to Syria for jihad has [become] a trend among groups in Indonesia and the Philippines, but not in Thailand.
Regional jihad continues to face difficulties. They want to establish jihadist headquarters in Southeast Asia to accommodate a bigger interest, but this has failed. This whole time they only have focused on leading local jihads and holding joint military trainings.
An outstanding effort like the one by the Philippines government to enter into a peace agreement with groups such as MILF (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is very helpful.
So these groups are less interested in global jihad. And strict law enforcement is the key to fighting terrorism in many Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
Khabar: How effectively are radical groups using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to recruit people and spread their messages?
Solahudin: The internet is effective enough to help these groups recruit new members and get in touch with their members through websites or social media.
Recruitments on Facebook are rare …. The group that attempted to bomb the Burmese embassy in Jakarta first met on Facebook. They were actively involved in a discussion forum on Facebook. The groups in Jakarta, Madiun and Solo, which were first mistaken with the HASMI group, also met on Facebook.
They then organised to have a meeting to launch a terror attack, though that subsequently failed.
These groups [in Jakarta, Madiun and Solo] interacted a lot on Facebook. Along with technological developments, the internet has helped them a lot in succeeding with their missions. They used to meet each other face-to-face, but now they can have discussions online.