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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        30  April 2011

Indonesia plays down terrorist threat

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The day after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned of the “serious threat” from Islamic extremism, his chief security minister played down the issue as nothing to worry about.

Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said on Friday that the resurgence of the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) movement was not large enough to pose a significant threat.

“It’s not true that we’re weak,” he said. “I’m saying that in the national context, we shouldn’t worry about the movement. We only need to raise our awareness.”

He added, “We need to see if the movement is massive enough to get power on the national scale, which it doesn’t have yet.”

Recent revelations that the spate of book bombs sent to prominent figures last month were masterminded by NII proponents, who champion the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the country, have shined a light on the movement, which has reportedly been recruiting members undetected by the authorities for 19 years.

The group is also believed to have been behind the foiled Good Friday plot to bomb a church, gas pipeline and military arsenal in Serpong, Tangerang.

On Thursday, Yudhoyono acknowledged the creeping radicalization in the country, calling it “a continuous and serious threat in terrorism and in horizontal violence.”

He called on all Indonesians to help stamp out extremism in their communities, and not just rely on the police to do the job.

However, Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Islamic organization, accused the government of ignoring and even exploiting the growing NII movement.

“The NII is actually an old issue that’s been around for more than 20 years, or more than 60 if you want to link it to DI [Darul Islam, an extremist movement],” he said.

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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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