Southeast Asia: the next battleground?

As Canada ramps its relations with Southeast Asian nations with International Trade Minister Ed Fast concluding his thirteenth trade visit to the region in just four years, a former diplomat to Ottawa is warning the world to keep an eye on Saudi cash posing serious risks for peace and stability in that part of the world.

When I joined the foreign ministry in 1972, a major foreign policy concern in the region was that Southeast Asian nations would soon fall like dominoes to militant communism supported and abetted by the People’s Republic of China. Fortunately, the dominoes held.

Today, the old domino theory may well be applicable to a new danger: Islamic extremism. Violent jihadi groups drawing inspiration and support from Al-Qaeda and ISIS have sprouted in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Armed attacks, suicide bombers, beheadings and violence against innocent civilians have made the news.

Young Southeast Asian Muslims are also gravitating to the battlefields of Syria and Iraq to join some of the most violent and extremist jihadi groups.