Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (Source: VNA)

Singapore (VNA) – Southeast Asian nations need to intensify their fight against religious militancy taking root in the region, including Myanmar’s Rakhine State, said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on December 5.

He made the statement at the 15th ASEAN lecture on “ASEAN: Next 50” at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

Balakrishnan stated that the weakening of the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East and the recent occupation of the Philippine town of Marawi by IS-supporting gunmen have renewed concern that the region can become a magnet for militants.

According to him, several fighters returned to Marawi and several other areas in the region can become potential hotbeds for terrorists.

Singapore even has an anxiety that Rakhine state may become another sanctuary, another hotbed for extremism, he added.

Over the past year, the Philippines faced the region’s most serious militant violence, which began when hundreds of gunmen, including some from elsewhere in the region, occupied Marawi.

Indonesia and Malaysia say thousands of their citizens sympathise with IS and hundreds are believed to have travelled to Syria to join the group.

Indonesian authorities last year disrupted a plot by militants to launch an attack in Singapore.

Singapore will be chair of the 10-member ASEAN in 2018.-VNA