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Foreign Minister warns of increased risk of terrorism in Indonesia as well as Phuket and other South-East Asian resorts.

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Friday 25 October 2002


Foreign Minister warns of increased risk of terrorism in Indonesia as well as Phuket and other South-East Asian resorts.


MARK COLVIN: The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says the bodies of seven of those killed in the blast at Kuta Beach are expected back in Australia this weekend. And at the same time he's warning Australians of more terrorist risks in Indonesia.


Mr. Downer says that when the United Nations acts to outlaw the Jemaah Islamiah group tomorrow morning, Australians will face an increased risk of being targeted by terrorists in Indonesia. And another favourite travel destination for Australians, Phuket in Thailand, is also a place of significant risk.


Matt Brown reports from Canberra.


MATT BROWN: After so much anguished waiting, some of the remains of those killed in the Bali bombings are expected to return home over the weekend.


The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer:


ALEXANDER DOWNER: We're now hopeful that the remains of a number of Australians will be returned to Australia over the weekend. We think it's possible that the remains of around seven could be returned this weekend, which will be a good step forward. It still is a problem getting the remains identified, matching fingerprints and dental records and so on with the remains.


MATT BROWN: This will be a breakthrough for a small proportion of the families and relatives of the victims of the bombing.


ALEXANDER DOWNER: There are sort of two categories of families who, you know, your heart really goes out to. First of all, those who are waiting, who still don't know for sure whether a family member or a loved one is a victim or not, they just don't know. And we still have a large number of Australians missing who we believe have been in Bali.


The second is the people who know they have lost someone and are waiting for the remains to be brought back so that they can bring closure to, what for them is an absolute calamity. But at least that helps them to bring closure to it. They can have a funeral, a family funeral.


MATT BROWN: According to the domestic spy agency, ASIO, Australia's involvement in the so called war on terror has raised our profile, increasing the likelihood of Australian interests becoming a terrorist target. The threat to Australian interests overseas has increased, and the Foreign Minister is waring about resorts in South East Asia.


ALEXANDER DOWNER: The risk of terrorism from extremist groups is high and as time goes on we're getting more information. Some of it we can't corroborate, we're just not sure whether it's right or not, but we know from the Bali experience you just can't be too cautious.


And, we've had some information in relation to Phuket, and Phuket is a favoured holiday resort for Australians, I've been to Phuket myself on a couple of occasions. People must be just very careful in Phuket or similar types of resorts in South East Asia.


MATT BROWN: Australia's key role in getting the Jemaah Islamiah group listed by the United Nations as a terrorist group has also raised its own risks.


ALEXANDER DOWNER: JI will be listed during the course of today, New York time, during our night tonight, and this is a listing which has been put forward by Australia. It's being co-sponsored by 47 other countries at least. I think others may be coming along side as well. Indonesia is one of the countries which has co-sponsored the listing of JI.


We're very pleased that the Indonesian Government has decided to d o that. But there are extremists and militants in Indonesia, and there are in other countries in South East Asia who may respond violently to this. We don't have any certainty about that, but again, it's just that people need to be absolutely, absolutely cautious.


MARK COLVIN: The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, ending Matt Brown's report.