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Understanding Terrorist Safe Havens and Sanctuaries in Maritime Southeast Asia

The School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences had the honour of hosting a guest lecture, by Mr Kenneth Yeo on 4 April 2023 as part of the Public Safety and Security Programme’s “Thinking Train” Guest Speaker Series. Mr Yeo, a distinguished Senior Analyst from the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), specialises in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in Southeast Asia. Mr Yeo possesses extensive expertise in the study and analysis of terrorist networks within maritime Southeast Asia with a focus on political violence and terrorism in the Southern Philippines.

Mr Yeo shared pertinent research topics including addressing the significance of physical territories in providing safe havens and the distribution of terrorist networks. Mr Yeo explored hypotheses surrounding the existence and persistence of terrorist sanctuaries and highlighted the notion that these sanctuaries could persist due to a complex array of historical, geographical, societal, and technological factors. As such, it becomes crucial for counter-terrorism strategies to be adaptable and responsive by employing a diverse range of both “hard” and “soft” measures. He also emphasised the need for governments and counter-terrorism agencies to incorporate psychological warfare into their approaches which may involve promoting a narrative that offers alternatives to violence for terrorists, showcasing that there are opportunities for a fulfilling life beyond their current path. Additionally, resource denial can be utilised as an instrument to erode the influence of terrorist groups in strongholds. These strategies should be deployed strategically and, if necessary, in conjunction with more forceful military options.  


Mr Kenneth Yeo,  giving a talk to students from the Public Safety and Security programme on the topic of ISIS Sanctuaries and Networks in Southeast Asia

It was an enriching session for students from SUSS' Bachelor of Public Safety and Security (PSS) degree programme, with many noting how Mr Yeo’s insights had broadened their understanding and knowledge of the radicalisation process, especially for terrorist hotspots in Southeast Asia.  


Dr Omer Ali Saifudeen, Head, Military Studies Minor at the School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences, presenting a token of appreciation to Mr Kenneth Yeo

Radin Noorayuni, SUSS Public Safety and Security student, shared that the session provided a better understanding of the motivations behind why terrorists would be compelled to seek and join terrorist groups. Celest Lim, another SUSS Public Safety and Security student, shared that such guest lectures prompted her to assess complex, sensitive yet pertinent topics more critically, allowing her “to think outside the box and be more objective” in her understanding of terrorism and counter-terrorism research. 

We would like to thank Benjamin Tay Jia Ming from SUSS School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences for capturing this event!

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