Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia have signed an accord to combat regional terrorism. The pact outlines ways to share intelligence among the three neighboring states.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed says the agreement will help stop extremist groups intent on creating a pan-Asian Islamic state. The foreign ministers of Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia signed the accord Tuesday, strengthening security coordination among the three neighboring countries.
Indonesia and the Philippines in particular have had problems with domestic terror groups, and there are indications groups in the two countries are linked.
The vast borders of all three nations are hard to patrol. Illegal immigrants and criminal organizations can easily crisscross the region.
Its neighbors criticize Indonesia, saying the government has not done enough to counter extremist groups. Indonesian officials say they are trying, but their resources are stretched thin because of the country's weak economy.
At a conference on the economic impact of terrorism in Jakarta Tuesday, Indonesia's former defense minister, Juwono Sudarsono, said that only 10 percent of Indonesia's 200 million people qualify as middle class. He says more must be done to ensure that the government addresses the needs of the nation's poor. "I'm pretty sure that the ideologies of radicalism especially violence and terror will be less appealing if we can establish in the next five to 10 years the networking of building of institutions, inside as well as outside of government, most particularly among civil society, most particularly among the urban poor and the rural poor to provide broad-based economic sustenance," Mr. Sudarsono said.
About 1,000 U.S. troops are in the southern Philippines to help its military counter the Abu Sayyaf extremist group. Washington links the group to the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Malaysia has arrested dozens of people it suspects are involved in extremist organizations.
Indonesia recently arrested the head of an Islamic extremist group that it blames for inciting domestic conflict.