TCSS Security Commentaries #022

On September 13, 2021 (Monday), Japan issued an advisory warning to its citizens in the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Warning of terrorist threats in the imminent future.

Angelo Brian T. Castro, Taiwan Center for Security Studies

(2017 Marawi Siege, the Philippines. Source: Amnesty International)

Japan embassies located in six different ASEAN countries have warned its citizens to avoid certain facilities as plans for terrorist attacks were discouraged by the Japanese. The countries mentioned include the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Among these countries, the Philippines have suffered one of the most significant damages from the five month-long war against the IS-allied (Islamic State) militants that occupied the city of Marawi. The countries mentioned by the Japanese government are not unfamiliar with terror threats as these have been persisting security issues in the region.

The Japanese Embassy further states:

“We confirm that the Japanese government has received information about a possible terror attack, but we cannot give you any detailed background at the moment. Concerning this, we issued a warning to alert Japanese people residing in some Southeast Asian countries, but we cannot disclose the source,”

Countries included in the warning responded accordingly and reassured their citizens that the warning would not be ignored, and all efforts to increase security were in place.

For the Philippines, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) provided a statement that all reported local and external threats are being validated and taken seriously. Based on their most recent evaluation, the threat level in the country is determined to be moderate. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs also claimed that the warning from the Japanese government about terror attacks was not officially sent to their department. Like the Philippines, the Malaysian authorities have also expressed that the warning will be taken seriously and that the situation is constantly monitored.

Since August, the Indonesian government had mobilized the Densus 88, or its elite counter-terrorism unit and arrested 123 members of the terrorist network group Jemaah Islamiah (JI). On the same day that the warning was published, the unit arrested more members of JI terrorist network. Alif Satria, a researcher from Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia, stated that “Absolutely, something could be percolating in terms of fresh attacks following these arrests.”

In Singapore, neither a threat nor credible intelligence of terror attacks was discovered after receiving the warning. The Singaporean government has reached out to their Japanese counterparts, and they were also unable to provide further details. Similar findings were also concluded in Thailand, and the Thai government determined that the warning was more relative to the other countries involved.

Coincidentally, the terrorist threats surfaced as the anniversary of the tragic September 11 bombing in the United States was recently remembered, and the October 12 Bali Bombing in Indonesia was only a month after the warning was issued.