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Globalization of Terrorism: A Transnational Threat in Asia

Mamadou L. Bah

Ph.D. student in International Relations, Wuhan University,

Zakaria Dit Zan Sangare

Ph.D. student in International Relations, Wuhan University,


This article examines the phenomenon of terrorism in Asia and how it’s implication is further linked to the global spread as well as fight on terror. The developmental challenges faced by many countries in Asia have led to socio-economic marginalization, unemployment, ethnic nationalism and religious extremism. Living in an ever changing globalised society, it has become ever so important for nations to find a common initiative in order to tackle the issue of terrorism. The lack of cooperation between major nations worldwide such as Russia, China, and the United States has presented a problem. With these nations possessing great soft power influence worldwide their opposition to one another in policy, ideology and rhetoric only allow for further issues such as terrorism to flourish. Many scholars have pointed to this East vs. West (Neo-cold war) syndrome as a major contributor to the issue of global terrorism. It is from conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and other major conflict zones that these extremist fighters from Asia and the world over receive training and eventually return home were another battle has the potential to begin. This article focuses on and takes into account recent developments in Asia regarding the battle against terrorism and how a few selected countries that have been greatly impacted as well as those countries that have greatly impacted the fight against terrorism regionally have adjusted to the exponential growth of this 21st-century menace. The measures that nations of the region have taken to combat terrorism will be explored as well as prospects for a terror-free Asia. Furthermore, a synopsis of the battle of Marawi and the Philippine military response will be explored as a prime example of how terrorism has taken a globalized trend.


Many find it hard to see the connection between globalization and terrorism. Some scholars have pointed to the fact that marginalization and poverty, are all bi-products of globalization. East Asia is a region that has been most transformed by global economic forces over the last two decades. At present Asia is seeing a rise in terrorist activities that are not limited to just one particular state. After the September 11th terror attacks against the United States, the discourse in regards to international relations and global politics sharply changed. Prior to the September 11 attacks, the dominant issues revolved around geo-economics globalization and humanitarian issues which occupied the agendas of international summits and international organizations. Of late geopolitics and security concerns have once again become the central issue and the "old language and institutions" of the cold war are shaping our thinking about global politics. It is truly ironic that global terrorism, the phenomenon of terrorists operating in and against several nations simultaneously was facilitated by globalization. Global terrorism inevitably depends on the success of globalization. In fact, one may come to the conclusion that global terrorism is a facet of the global culture resulting from globalization.

All Throughout Asia, there are a whole host of terrorist organizations, insurgencies, and revolutionaries of all kind. Yet what differentiates terrorist groups operating in Asia from in other regions is the intricate nature of cooperation amongst groups. Most groups do not share the same ideologies and objectives, yet their cooperation across national boundaries create an economy of scale for logistics, training, and safe havens. A prime example of this is the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) who have trained with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the camps in the southern Philippines. The smuggling of weapons has been a specialty of GAM with the Thai terrorist group Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO).

Transnational threats refer to the activities that threaten the national security of any nation (Reyes, 385). These activities may include terrorist operations, mass drug trafficking or the creation and dispersal of weapons of mass destruction. Terror activities have recently proven to be amongst the most critical transnational threats that are affecting the Asian continent. Terrorist groups have been growing and carrying out their activities regularly throughout the Middle Eastern countries, and this has posed a grave threat in the region. Transnational threats go across borders to threaten the political and social integrity of a nation, and not forgetting the safety and health status of the individuals in the country (Reyes, 385).

Terrorism in Asia did not end by the closing of the cold war, as a matter of fact, terror activities have intensified. This has been contributed greatly by the intensification of globalization and the inter-connectedness of terror groups' ideologies and resources worldwide with the sole ambition to cause havoc (Sandler, 7). Still, various terror groups have learned new tricks and tactics over time with the incorporation of new technologies in their activities. In Asia, a range of terrorist groups works together to supply each other with firearms and money used in carrying out the training of new recruits beyond any one particular border. Terrorism in Asia is usually accompanied by drug trafficking which has proven to be a major financing method in regards to their operations. The fight against terror has proven to be an uphill battle for a multitude of reasons. One of these reasons is due to the fact that human rights organizations do not advocate for extreme measures when dealing with terrorist groups or a terrorist individuals. The fact that many of these terrorist organizations operate beyond vast borders does not make things any easier.

In recent years terrorist attacks have occurred in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. ISIS-affiliated operatives attempted but failed to conduct additional attacks in Indonesia, and a number of other terrorist attacks were foiled by the arresting or the deporting of individuals who were in various stages of attack planning in these countries, as well as in Australia and Malaysia. Terrorism has the propensity to create further conflict amongst populations by initiating a situation in which internal conflict amongst people further destabilizes the countries safety (Lee, 173). When a terror attack has been carried out in a region, there is a destruction of life and property. The little resources that are left become a center of interest for everyone who is in that region. This potentially results in the dominance of some citizens over the few resources available. This does not go well with other citizens hence rivalry begins which may result in clashes between the people in the region. This affects the safety of the country. Furthermore, the government is forced into using more resources to fight these internal clashes thus slowing the growth of the country even more.

It has become common knowledge that terrorist attacks are conducted with the intention to have as many casualties as possible (Lee, 170). No person is immune to an attack by terrorists. Anyone can be a victim of terrorism. Terrorist attacks take place mostly in places where large numbers of people congregate such as shopping malls, markets, and public transport. It affects safety in East Asia in that people are afraid of being in places where there is a congregation of people. The fear of inhabiting places and locations that are not secure heightens public sentiment in regards to the topic of terrorism. Terrorism has further affected safety in East Asia by making some areas in East Asia unsafe for visits by tourists which eventually takes a toll on regional economies and their tourism sectors. A good example of this is the repeated Bali attacks from 2002 till as recent as 2017 that have claimed the lives of many local and foreign visitors and has greatly impacted Indonesia’s tourism sector.

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