The Memo: 3 Jun—9 Jun 2024

The Memo from 3 Jun—9 Jun 2024: Summary of incidents, ranging from terrorism, covert actions, organised crimes, regional conflicts to cybersecurity incidents.

The Memo: 3 Jun—9 Jun 2024

In brief:

  • MOTAC received bomb threat, evacuated; later confirmed hoax.
  • Lantawan, Basilan declared free from Abu Sayyaf Group.
  • Malaysia Immigration dismantles 'Geng Broga' trafficking syndicate.
  • Ombudsman suspends Tarlac mayor, officials over illegal gaming allegations.
  • Bajau Laut eviction sparks human rights and humanitarian concerns.
  • Myanmar junta cracks down to stabilise economy amid currency crisis.

Terrorism and insurgency

  1. Malaysia

On June 5, 2024, Malaysia's Ministry of Tourism, Arts, and Culture (Motac) received a bomb threat targeting its 14th floor. Motac staff and visitors were promptly evacuated as a precaution. Putrajaya police's Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU) and two sniffer dogs were dispatched to the scene to assess the threat. Police later confirmed the bomb threat was a hoax.

Why It Matters: This incident is part of a troubling pattern of hoax bomb threats in Malaysia. In September 2023, Bank Negara received an email bomb threat, leading to an evacuation and a thorough search by the Bomb Disposal Unit, which found no explosives. A similar hoax occurred again in February 2024. These repeated threats disrupt operations, instill fear, and strain security resources, highlighting the need for enhanced threat assessment and response protocols.

  1. The Philippines

On June 6, 2024, government officials declared the town of Lantawan in Basilan free from the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman announced this significant milestone during a ceremony in Barangay Manggas, attended by key provincial, military, and police officials. The event highlighted the display of numerous surrendered and recovered firearms from the extremist group, marking a momentous victory in the ongoing fight against terrorism in the region.

Why it matters: The declaration of Lantawan in Basilan as "free" from the ASG marks a significant victory in the Philippine authorities' fight against terrorism, particularly given ASG's links to the Islamic State. This milestone demonstrates the government's persistent efforts in dismantling a major violent terrorist group and the weakening of ASG's operational capabilities.

Organised Crimes

  1. Malaysia

    The Immigration Department of Malaysia dismantled the 'Geng Broga' syndicate trafficking Indonesians during an operation in Sungai Besar and Sabak Bernam, Selangor. Officers intercepted three suspicious vehicles, detaining 15 individuals, including the 47-year-old mastermind and two transporters. The syndicate smuggled Indonesians from Tanjung Balai to Sungai Besar using fishing vessels and smaller boats. Authorities seized five Indonesian passports, RM6,200 in cash, and three vehicles. The syndicate had been operating for a year.

Why it matters: This operation underscores the ongoing challenge of human trafficking in Malaysia and demonstrates the commitment of local law enforcement to combat it. The seizure of passports, cash, and vehicles reveals the syndicate's significant operational capacity.

Covert Actions

  1. The Philippines

The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the suspension of Tarlac’s Bamban town mayor, Ms. Alice Guo, along with officials Edwin Ocampo and Adenn Sigua, effective May 31. They face allegations of permitting illegal Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) to operate in Bamban. The six-month suspension aims to prevent interference with the ongoing investigation. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) filed charges of grave misconduct and serious dishonesty, citing Mayor Guo’s failure to cancel business permits for Zun Yuan Technology, despite its license revocation by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). Additionally, a Senate panel is investigating Ms. Guo’s alleged ties to the Pogo and her potential identity as a Chinese “asset” or spy. Guo denies all accusations.

Why it matters: The suspension of Mayor Alice Guo and two officials underscores serious governance and integrity issues within local administrations, particularly concerning illegal gaming operations. The case highlights the potential influence and infiltration risks posed by foreign entities, raising national security concerns.


  1. Malaysia

Malaysian security forces demolished 138 unauthorized settlements of the Bajau Laut community in Sabah. The crackdown was allegedly aimed to address security issues and cross-border crimes. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Environment asserted that upholding national law necessitated the action. The operation targeted unauthorized homes within the protected Tun Sakaran Marine Park, ostensibly to prevent illegal activities. Activists condemned the action, citing systemic discrimination against the Bajau Laut. The state government denied human rights violations in the eviction of Bajau Laut people from Semporna islands. The exercise, involving multiple agencies, faced criticism after videos of demolitions surfaced.

Why it matters: The eviction of the Bajau Laut community from Semporna islands raises significant human rights concerns. The displacement of the Bajau Laut, a historically nomadic group, without proper provisions for their relocation, risks further marginalising a vulnerable community and could lead to social unrest.

  1. Myanmar

Myanmar's junta arrested 35 individuals, including foreign exchange traders and real estate agents, to stabilise the depreciating kyat. Five were charged with illegal real estate sales in Thailand, and 14 for destabilising the currency exchange rate. The kyat fell to a record low of 4,500 per dollar on the black market, against the central bank's rate of 2,100. Additionally, 21 people were arrested for destabilising gold prices.

Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar's economy has deteriorated, with poverty rates nearly doubling. The shadow National Unity Government (NUG) accuses the junta of excessive currency printing and increased military spending.

Why it matters: The junta's crackdown on traders reflects urgent efforts to stabilise Myanmar's deteriorating economy amid severe political turmoil. Arrests of individuals allegedly destabilising the kyat and gold prices highlight the regime's attempts to control rampant inflation and restore economic order. The kyat's depreciation exacerbates poverty, which has nearly doubled since the 2021 coup, severely impacting the population and signals deepening economic crisis.

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