Malaysia remains a ‘transit hub for terrorists’ – and it’s visa-free travel that makes it a ‘first choice’

38 foreign terrorist militants who used Malaysia as transit have been arrested since 2013, Bukit Aman counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said.
The Straits Times

Visa-free travel is a godsend to weary travellers, but it seems such agreements inked between countries can also come with some serious security implications.

Police in Malaysia are now blaming visa-free travel for what they say is helping the nation to remain a “transit hub for terrorists”. Travellers from most Middle-Eastern countries and some African nations do not require a visa to enter the Southeast Asian nation, according to Bukit Aman counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.

The ability to enter the country without a visa has made it a “first-choice” for foreign militants, who are mostly of Arab and African nationality, Ayob Khan was reported by The Star as saying.

“Since 2013, we have arrested 38 foreign terrorist fighters, who use Malaysia as transit. Some were prosecuted while others were deported,” The Star quoted Ayob Khan as saying.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday (Nov 5), the Deputy Commissioner reportedly also said that this was not a new issue, and that the Government is working on addressing the matter.

Although there were no Islamic State-affiliated attacks in Malaysia last year, according to the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2018, Malaysia remained a source, transit point and destination country for terrorist groups including ISIS, Abu Sayyaf and al-Qa’ida.

The report made no mention of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which saw 12 individuals – including two state assemblymen – arrested in October over alleged involvement with the terrorist group, Bernama reported.

According to Ayob Khan, although the US has removed the LTTE from its list of terrorist groups, it did not mean that Malaysia would do the same. “We are a sovereign country and have our own laws, everything that we do has its own standard operating procedure,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

In addition, he revealed that 22 investigation papers into terrorism financing had been opened since 2016, with 19 individuals were brought to court so far.

Any form of money transaction, even in a small amount, would still be considered a crime if it was channelled to finance terrorism activities, he said.

“Some people make transaction of RM100 up to a significant amount regularly, and this can be traced with the help of the bank,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

“Most of them use Western Union to send money to families or third parties as funds to Syria and Southern Philippines,” he added.

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