Published on September 11, 2007
For the first time in six years, the names of more than 2,700 people killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will not be read at the site where the World Trade Centre towers once stood in New York. This does not necessarily mean that New Yorkers want to forget the tragedy. More likely it means that they are ready to move on with their lives rather than repeat an endless round of elaborate ceremonies to commemorate the victims. But while times may be changing, we are consistently reminded that the scourge of global terrorism continues to be a clear and present danger to all of us, regardless of where we live. None of us can afford to be complacent.
Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the attacks, recently appeared in his first video message in nearly three years. His message was to remind us that he is still a force to be reckoned with and that his brand of extremism will not go away no matter how much the international community strives to remove it from the face of the earth.
The world has come a long way since that dreadful day six years ago. America has sent its troops to Afghanistan and Iraq and forcibly removed regimes in both places. The US will continue to be engaged in both countries for the foreseeable future. Even the Europeans who objected to the invasion of Iraq have committed themselves to stabilising Afghanistan.
For US President George Bush, September 11 remains the defining moment of his presidency. But America's effort in the global war against terrorism must go beyond the simple equation of "us against them". This is much more than just an ideological struggle against Islamic extremists who continue to evolve.
The latter are rightly condemned, while the Bush administration may have bitten off more than it can chew by upgrading its mission from regime change to state building. America increasingly finds itself caught in the middle of a bloody mess, and the threat of global terrorism is still very much a part of our daily lives.
Every time we step foot inside an airport to go through rigorous security checks, we are reminded of how the attacks six years ago changed our lives. Having to show up three hours ahead of a flight departure in order to be properly checked makes travelling more and more unpleasant.
Despite improved international cooperation to combat international terrorism, attacks continue to happen. Since September 11, 2001, terrorists have succeeded in killing and maiming innocents in Bali, Moscow, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid, Bombay and London, not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan and southern Thailand, where killings are a daily occurrence. Nations must think hard about what more needs to be done to lessen the terrorists' chances of success.
The ongoing violence in the deep South of Thailand continues unabated to the point where it could escalate into a much bigger and nastier conflict. The Thai security agencies continue to debate whether the insurgency there is linked with international terrorism.
Which is beside the point.
The point is that it matters little whether the Islamic militants/Malay separatists in the deep South have international connections. The point is, how to effectively combat them while at the same time dealing with the grievances of local people that enable the insurgents to attract new recruits? How to put an end to the violence is the more important question.
Thais in regions outside the strife-torn South have become complacent of the fact that what is happening there could very well happen in other parts of the country.
Just five years ago the government was calling these insurgents "ragtag bandits" - as a way to downplay the threat they posed. But five years on, the Thai military continues to boast unconvincingly about the progress it has made on the ground. This in spite of the fact that the killing of innocent victims by the insurgents continues every day with no end in sight.
The 300,000-strong military has received a big boost in its budget but has yet to explain to the public how this will help curb the violence and restore a semblance of law and order in the South. The insurgency there has now become the biggest threat to the nation.