By Jasmine Chorley Foster
As August nears an end, many of you will be packing for your next trip. If Kuala Lampur is in the cards for you, or you think you might have direct bookings there while you're based in Singapore or Southeast Asia, it's imperative that you keep an eye on your Government's travel safety warnings issued for Malaysia.
In the past couple weeks, Malaysia has seen an unusually high number of violent assaults and killings. Usually a peaceful country, 2013 has seen 19 shootings in Penang alone. Many of these and other violent crimes have been drug or gang-related, but many remain mysterious, such as the death of Arab-Malaysian Development Bank founder Hussain Ahmed Najadi. He was shot and killed on July 29th as he exited a Chinese Temple in Kuala Lampur.
According to The Economist, police have credited the increased violence to the 2011 repeal of the Emergency Ordinance, which released about 2600 detainees into the public. But Steven Sim, head of the Penang Institute think-tank, points to the re-allocation of police resources away from fighting crime. The Economist also noted Malaysia's strict but seldom enforced gun laws.
As of August 19th, the Government of Canada's assessment of travel safety in Malaysia was as follows:
"Exercise a high degree of caution when visiting the coastal area of Sabah to the east and south of Lahad Datu, from Tambisan in the north to Tawau in the south, including Semporna, as well as nearby islands, including Sipidan and Mabul. Clashes between Philippine gunmen and Malaysian authorities occurred from February to March 2013, resulting in several deaths. This area was declared a Special Security Area by the Malaysian government. Monitor local media and follow the advice of local authorities.
"Foreigners have been kidnapped on the islands off the east coast of Sabah, including Sipadan and Langkayan islands. Malaysian authorities have increased security in the region in response to past incidents.
"Violent crime against foreigners is uncommon. Petty crime is prevalent, especially in tourist areas and at the airport. Snatch-and-grab incidents against tourists occur. Thieves on motorcycles frequently grab bags and other valuables from pedestrians, often resulting in injury. Women walking alone or with children are common targets. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Do not leave valuables unattended in vehicles.
"Be particularly cautious at bars or clubs. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery."
It is safe to travel to Malaysia, but avoid Eastern Sabah and check your Government's travel safety assessment regularly e.g. GOV.UK If you're currently in Kuala Lampur, remember to keep the contact information for your embassy handy.
For The Business Model's Directory of Foreign Embassies, click here. Kuala Lampur is about half way down the page.
We will continue to keep models and readers updated on the situation in Malaysia. We advise all models to take extra safety precautions when they travel and remember to stay safe.