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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs                    27  September 2011

Church bombing paves way for intelligence bill

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Sunday’s suicide bombing at a church in Solo, Indonesia has galvanized lawmakers and the government to set their differences aside and agree on long-disputed clauses in a draft bill on intelligence.

Golkar Party legislator Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita, who heads the committee discussing the bill, said on Monday that lawmakers and ministers had agreed on several crucial points.

The bill is set to include provisions on the use of wiretapping, coordination between state agencies overseeing intelligence and the use of detention.

“We’re optimistic that the bill will be finished before this current sitting period ends, or within a few weeks,” Agus said after a hearing with the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

He added that while all parties had agreed to give the intelligence agency the authority to conduct wiretapping, the power would be strictly regulated.

The bill spells out that wiretapping could be conducted for six months at most, would require a court order and would be limited to intelligence purposes.

“The main points are that the authority to wiretap can only be used for early detection and early warning, not for investigation or legal enforcement,” Agus said.

Intelligence officials would not be given the authority to arrest or detain suspects, he said.

The draft has been debated since 2004 but differences among lawmakers, public officials and intelligence bodies have repeatedly resulted in deadlock.

On Sunday, just hours after the Solo church explosion, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed a hope that the intelligence bill could be passed soon so that the intelligence agency and law enforcers could use it to combat terrorism.

Adrianus Meliala, a terrorism expert from the University of Indonesia, said the BIN needed more resources to improve its early detection capability, but not more power.

Wan Usman, a defense lecturer at the same university, said an emphasis on training intelligence officers properly was paramount “so they can analyze data on potential activities that could harm the nation and engage in preventative action.” International Crisis Group analyst Sidney Jones said giving the intelligence agency more power was not an appropriate solution.

“I think it’s too simplistic to see the problem of terrorism as one of inadequate law,” Jones said.

She also cautioned against copying foreign laws in combatting terrorism, including the Internal Security Acts of Singapore and Malaysia.



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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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