- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

From combined dispatches

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's home state in northern Malaysia will soon install recording devices in mosques to monitor anti-government sermons.

All mosques in the northern state of Kedah will have voice-recording equipment installed, while video cameras will be installed in venues where imams are suspected of straying from their religious texts, Kedah Chief Minister Syed Razak Syed Zain announced this week.

"The objective is to monitor the speeches delivered and to enable the religious department to investigate public complaints that some imams are reading speeches that slam the government," Mr. Syed Razak was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama.

Kedah, a mostly rural heartland of the Malay Muslim majority, is Mr. Mahathir's birthplace and one of this Southeast Asian country's most closely watched political battlegrounds.

Mr. Mahathir's national ruling coalition holds a nearly two-thirds' majority in the Kedah state assembly, but the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, which holds the remaining seats, wants to boost its representation in the next elections, scheduled for 2004.

Mr. Mahathir, who has led Malaysia since 1981, has accused the Islamic party's supporters of preaching hatred in schools and mosques, and twisting religious truths to turn people against the government.

The latest efforts to control Islamic terrorism in Malaysia came as Southeast Asian leaders pledged to protect tourists from bombings like the one in Bali that killed nearly 200 people.

"We must take joint measures to fight terrorism," Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

"We cannot allow the evil of terrorism to prevail."

Security was the tightest ever for an ASEAN conference at the one that ended yesterday. Streets were barricaded around the meeting site, a fancy hotel, and 5,000 police and military troops were been deployed.

Wealthy nations have responded to the Bali bombing with travel advisories, angering many Asian countries who say they're scaring people away.

Bali's Kuta Beach was considered safe, if not the safest of all tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, until last month's bombing.

ASEAN, founded in 1967 to strengthen regional economic cooperation, comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.


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