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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 06:05 GMT
Asian summit raps terror warnings
Indonesian police watch over a Bali beach as a tourist sunbathes
Indonesia insists Bali is a safe holiday destination
South East Asian states have appealed to the rest of the world to stop warning travellers against going to their region because of fears of terrorism.

The call came as a two-day summit of the 10 member-states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh got under way.

Security official checks a woman
Security is tight at the summit
Asean leaders also stressed their determination to co-operate actively in the fight against "the evil of terrorism", following last month's Bali bomb attack that killed almost 200 people.

"We resolve to intensify our efforts, collectively and individually, to prevent and suppress the activities of terrorist groups in the region," the leaders said in a statement.

The Phnom Penh summit - which leaders of China, Japan and South Korea are also attending - also aims to discuss ways of creating the world's largest free trade area with a population of about two billion people.

West blamed

The leaders criticised Western governments for their recent spate of travel warnings against visiting many parts of the region.

"We call on the international community to avoid indiscriminately advising their citizens to refrain from visiting... our countries, in the absence of established evidence to substantiate rumours of possible terrorist attacks," the statement said.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Phnom Penh says tourism - a multi-billion dollar industry in the Asean countries - is facing a deep crisis.

Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
He says that even before the Bali bomb visitor numbers had already fallen sharply in parts of Philippines and Indonesia because of increasing lawlessness.

Our correspondent says that now - as tourism has collapsed in Bali as well - the Asean leaders are trying to dispel the perception that the region is unsafe.

The leaders also deplored what they called a trend towards identifying attacks with particular religious or ethnic groups.

The Asean Secretary-General pointed out that the discovery of terrorist cells in European countries did not result in tourists being warned away there.

Security gaps

However, some experts say it is not just the presence of a terrorist network which makes the region risky, but the weakness of local security forces in dealing with the threat.

Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji is escorted to his car in Phnom Penh
China is set to dominate the summit

Indonesia has been criticised for ignoring warnings by the United States of an impending attack and even after the Bali attack the Indonesian police seemed unclear about how to investigate it.

The government finally accepted help from Australian and American police experts.

Experts say that both the police and military in many South East Asian countries are seen as corrupt and poorly trained.

Some are deeply involved in illegal activists like kidnapping and smuggling.

Our correspondent says that until that changes, all the promises of stronger action by the Asean leaders will carry little weight.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Phnom Penh
"The states are promising cooperation to protect their beleaguered tourist industry"
See also:

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