Ron Corben, AAP
The Asia Pacific faces a long-term threat posed by terrorist networks supporting Islamic State, the ‘menace stalking the region’, Australian justice minister Michael Keenan said.
Mr Keenan, in Thailand for talks with local government ministers and police officials, said stepping up regional co-operation was ‘vitally important’ to meet the increasing security challenges.
‘We know we’ve got a big regional challenge – that’s been brought home to us with the [January 14] attacks in Jakarta over the past fortnight,’ he said in an interview with AAP.
The attack in the central business district of the Indonesian capital left eight people dead – including the four attackers – and 20 wounded.
‘This is a menace that is stalking Indonesia, it’s certainly stalking Australia – it’s troubling Malaysia, it’s troubling the Philippines – and no country in the region is immune from that,’ Mr Keenan said.
‘This is a challenge we all share together and that’s why co-operation is vitally important.’
Australia and Thailand agreed to sign an anti-terror pact and improve police and security co-operation in tackling the threat posed by Islamic State.
Mr Keenan, who also has special responsibilities on counter-terrorism, held talks with Thai deputy prime minister and defence minister, General Prawit Wongsuwan.
‘We consider it to be a regional problem and we’re making enormous efforts to talk to partners in the region, to make sure our level of co-operation between our law enforcement security agencies is as close and productive as it can be,’ he said.
Mr Keenan said there are some 110 Australians fighting in the conflict in the Middle East, with a further 200 who support them in Australia.
Analysts say a key concern is Australians using Thailand’s open borders to travel to Syria and Iraq, by way of Malaysia.
Mr Keenan acknowledged there was potential for Thailand to be used as a transit point by Australians travelling to Middle East.
‘We want to make sure that’s not going to happen and we can do that by co-operating closely with the Thai government,’ he said.
Mr Keenan is due to meet with Malaysian officials when he travels to Kuala Lumpur to attend a conference on regional security and extremism.