The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) organized the second peer-to-peer workshop on major security-related threats in Southeast Asia. The workshop, specifically designed for intelligence and law enforcement officers from Cambodia, Lao PDR and the Philippines, took place in Luang Prabang from 17 to 19 May 2023.
The event was conducted within the framework of the project CONTACT – Enhancing capacities to prevent the trafficking of radiological and nuclear material in Southeast Asia – funded by Global Affairs Canada.
The workshop was attended by 25 practitioners from various government security agencies in the three countries. It provided an opportunity to exchange national experiences, perceptions and views on pressing security threats in the region and their potential impact on the risks associated with the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials.
As highlighted by UNICRI experts during the introductory session, Southeast Asia faces some specific security challenges. Of particular concern is the presence of terrorist individuals and entities with the capacity to carry out attacks. Additionally, several countries in the region continue to serve as preferred routes for a wide range of illicit trafficking which can be easily exploited by malicious actors for other purposes such as smuggling of radiological and nuclear (RN) materials. From a geographic perspective, extensive maritime borders, coupled with the presence of significant free trade zones, financial centers and transshipment hubs, further heighten security-related threats.
In response to the overview presented by UNICRI, participating authorities shared their respective national assessment of the most critical security threats, with a particular focus on terrorism and organized crime. They also discussed the potential connections between these threats and the trafficking of radiological and nuclear materials, emphasizing the use of similar modus operandi and existing smuggling routes.
The national contributions and experiences were complemented by interventions from experts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Network of Regulatory Bodies on Atomic Energy, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), and the Incident and Trafficking Database Unit of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
To facilitate a practical approach and test the knowledge shared, UNICRI also conducted a table-top exercise and a scenario-based discussion based on real-life cases. These exercises involved the deployment of inter-agency mechanisms and multilateral cooperation at both national and regional levels.
The participants actively engaged in all activities and found the scenario-based exercise and group discussions to be effective in building synergies and partnerships with their regional counterparts.
The organization of the event was facilitated by the Unite Nations Political and Security Affairs Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lao PDR.
In his opening remarks, H.E. Daovy Vongxay, Director General of the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), acknowledged the longstanding and successful partnership between UNICRI and Lao PDR. He stressed the relevance of the CONTACT Southeast Asia project, not only for his country, but also for the broader regional context. H.E. Vongxay also requested continued assistance for capacity-building in the CBRN area.
In the coming weeks, UNICRI will continue providing support to intelligence and law enforcement officers from the three countries through various initiatives. These include remote coaching and mentorship, as well as preparing for the second iterations of the train-the-trainer program which will be followed by national training sessions in the third and fourth quarters of 2023.
About the project:
CONTACT – Southeast Asia aims to enhance the capacities of nuclear security stakeholders in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Philippines, and Viet Nam to devise and carry out operations in order to thwart radiological and nuclear (RN) trafficking attempts, as well as to foster regional cooperation and communication among the four partner countries. The project is funded by Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Program.