This week, in remarks on the sidelines of Interpol’s 86th General Assembly in Beijing, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who headed the Malaysian delegation to the meeting, pointed out some steps that Asian states should take as they seek to address a range of security threats. Zahid’s remarks were a testament to the lingering challenges that remain despite some incremental progress witnessed in regional cooperation over the past few years.
As I have noted before, there are a number of bilateral, minilateral, and multilateral efforts being taken by Asian states to manage security challenges. In Southeast Asia, these include bilateral cooperation on everything from cross-border drills to intelligence sharing; minilateral patrols – in the Malacca Straits and now in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas; and ongoing work in regional institutions such as ASEANAPOL (See: “What Did ASEAN’s Latest Transnational Crime Meeting Achieve?”). Interpol has played an important and often underappreciated role in some of this work in recent years in various areas, including counterterrorism investigation, joint cross-border operations in transnational crimes, as well as cybersecurity (See: “ASEAN Cyber Challenge Exposed in New Interpol Probe”).
This week, in his speech during a group meeting with Interpol’s Chinese president Meng Hongwei in Beijing as well as in remarks to reporters, Zahid did acknowledge the importance of Interpol’s cooperation for Malaysia, which had helped it address several recent cases. Among them was the assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia earlier this year, where Interpol had put out a “red notice” – the highest level of international alert – for North Koreans wanted in the incident. Zahid also said that to date, Malaysian police had submitted a total of 83 names to be included in Interpol’s various notices, including 59 under “red notice.”
But he also pointed to things that still remained to be done by regional states as well. In particular, Zahid emphasized that Interpol member countries needed to adopt new technologies to curb crime, since conventional policing methods could not be relied on to take down increasingly sophisticated criminals. In particular, he highlighted the use of biometrics and facial recognition technology to ensure criminals can be tracked down quickly. As I noted in an earlier piece, Malaysia also announced after Zahid’s bilateral meetings with Chinese officials that it had reached an agreement in principle for the use of a high-tech scanner from China already being used by security officials (See: “Malaysia to Get New China Security Equipment”).
Zahid also highlighted the importance of inter-agency cooperation with what he termed “non-police players” as well, in addition to the police forces under Interpol. Though he unsurprisingly did not elaborate on the challenges that Malaysia has faced domestically with respect to inter-agency coordination on security issues, officials have privately flagged this as a concern that needs management as new initiatives are undertaken with other external partners (See: “US, Malaysia and the War Against the Islamic State”).