Cambodian genocide survivor warns of fundamentalist terror growing in South East Asia

According to Peter Tan Keo, Secretary General of the Asia Economic Forum, and Vice President of the University of Cambodia, there is a growing global disconnect from the war on terrorism in South East Asia.

"As attention has been fixed on the Middle East, terrorist networks in South East Asia have been quickly evolving and expanding. If terrorism is to be fought effectively, greater attention needs to paid toward South East Asia, and how to address the concerns that have too often allowed fundamentalism to spread like wildfire in this region," he wrote in The Diplomat.

"What cases such as those of Patek, Dulmatin, Abu Bakar Bashir and others in South East Asia have revealed is that Islamic fundamentalism is deeply rooted in certain parts of South East Asia. Places like Aceh, Indonesia and Jolo Island in the southern Philippines have been converted into training camps, where followers have been lured largely from the middle class and universities.

"Indeed, this is one of the interesting differences between militants in South East Asia and the Middle East, where the poor and rural populations have been targeted. Terrorist networks such as the Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf have a strong foothold in the region, recruiting disgruntled young men and women to join a network whose main goal is to destroy the ‘infidels.’

Mr Keo described himself as a victim of the Cambodian genocide (1975-1979) "in which fundamentalist ideology was used to brainwash young people to turn against their own families, leading to the deaths of roughly 2 million people, I would urge the global community to avoid short-term solutions to a fight that has existed for decades. With this in mind, it’s important to attempt to better understand the correlation between today’s actions and the next generation’s consequences."

He added: "We must never underestimate the power of young people. But to ensure that they are steered away from taking up arms with the terrorists, policymakers will be better served rejecting partisan politics and focusing on addressing this longstanding and long-term problem."