Interagency Collaboration to Counter Violent Extremism Group PhotoAn Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) outreach team conducted a workshop entitled “Interagency Collaboration to Counter Violent Extremism” in Hua Hin, Thailand  July 9-13.

The purpose of the workshop was to assist the Thailand government in accessing and further developing its’ security sector in countering violent extremism (CVE).  A key objective of the workshop was to enable participants to develop specific recommendations for increased efficiency and effectiveness of the Thai Interagency or “whole of government” process.  Additionally, the workshop was intended to help advance the important and long standing U.S. treaty relationship with Thailand.

A senior Thai military official in collaboration with the Joint United States Military Advisory Group Thailand (JUSMAGTHAI) and APCSS, developed this workshop to focus on the Thai security sector as it relates to CVE.  The workshop included participation of 40 Thai representatives from the Royal Thai Armed Forces, law enforcement agencies, and other ministries that comprise the Thai security sector.

“Bringing participants from government interagency is one of the key objectives,” said Thai Army Col. Terdsak Dumkhum, director of intelligence division, Royal Thai Army Headquarters. “Working alone in a security atmosphere is impossible. So, by bringing us together and also to have a connection and relationship with APCSS, colleagues, and friends is very helpful for the future cooperation and collaboration. Not only for the economic purpose, but also for intelligence and security.”

One of the intended outcomes of the workshop was to develop an agreed-upon summary of findings and next steps to assist interagency officials improve and enhance a Thai whole-of-government approach to countering violent extremism.

Another goal was to develop a defined, functional interagency process, to include roles and responsibilities of all Thai ministries, law enforcement agencies, military entities and nongovernmental actors involved in CVE.

The workshop provided a forum for Thai sharing of security sector perspectives and critical thinking on a variety of issues associated with CVE.  Participants seemed encouraged in having the opportunity to discuss and review the Thai interagency process for CVE.

Participants also noted the value of having such a wide variety of agencies involved in the discussions, indicating that it was a “first ever” opportunity to gain a broader perspective on the overall interagency process.  In post workshop surveys, many participants indicated that their understanding of Thailand’s interagency process as related to CVE had improved significantly.

“Participating in the 3 days of activities in this workshop, were very, very beneficial to my current job and position,” Col. Terdsak continued. “First of all, I’ve been able to learn new things, especially the knowledge provided by the instructors of APCSS. The small group discussions were very beneficial because we can hear a lot of knowledge and experience from the participants that come from the various agencies in Thailand. This is very worthwhile in terms of helping to dealing with violent extremism that are now very important, not only to Thailand, but to the region and a global perspective.”

While the participants felt that the process and policy for countering violent extremism is coherent across most agencies, they consistently acknowledged a need to improve that system, particularly in practice.

“I was frankly pleasantly surprised when we dealt fairly and professionally with talking over various very serious issues and got a lot of candid responses – not necessarily candor about US-Thai relations, but candor about what doesn’t work or didn’t work the last time around in their own government processes” said U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) John M. Cole, Jr., an observer at the workshop with more than 40 years experience in the region.

“One thing that blew me away was that it showed me that this younger generation of Thai officials, particularly the ones that were so well chosen by APCSS and JUSTMAGTHAI  in putting this thing together, produced some very, very tough internal discussions. We’re talking professional discussion and disagreement among people who are representing different Thai agencies. They were here because they were interested in the processes they were learning about, the context and the outcome of the workshop.”

APCSS is a Department of Defense educational institution that conducts executive education programs through in-resident courses and in-region workshops. These activities build US and partner capacity, improve trust and understanding, and provide security practitioners from across the Asia-Pacific region increased competence in understanding a wide spectrum of comprehensive security practices. Thai officials, both military and civilian, routinely participate in APCSS programs.  Currently, there are 269 Thai alumni.

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