Shipping Out: Week in Review – Floods, Smog, and Political Drama

Flooding in South Asia has continued to threaten travel security and disrupt transportation. In India, the navy was deployed inland, with the dispatch of helicopters and emergency service boats on 27 July to extract over 600 passengers stranded on a train only 60km outside Mumbai when an overflowing river flooded the tracks. Monsoon related air travel delays and cancellations at the end of July continued into the first days of August.

Forest fires in the Indonesia provinces of Riau, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Jambi, South Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan prompted declarations of emergency. Riau’s capital of Pekanbaru has suffered weeks of smog, even though schools and the airport remain open. The Indonesian government might take more urgent measures after a recent Supreme Court decision to uphold a lower court judgment that found central and provincial government officials responsible for mishandling forest fires in 2015. Recent earthquakes in Indonesia including in Jakarta resulted in a tsunami warning, though it was subsequently lifted, and Japan’s Chiba prefecture also experienced an earthquake.

Although in Hong Kong our attention was both peaceful as well as violent protests, six bombs exploded in Bangkok (along with several unexploded devices) amid a foreign ministers forum attended by representatives from Asean, China and the United States, and in Kuala Lumpur, a bomb threat against a court complex on 25 July necessitated the adjournment of former prime minister Najib Razak corruption trial.

Mass shootings in the United States also impacted travellers, as numerous victims in El Paso were foreign citizens. 

Stay Safe the Week of 7-August

India’s monsoon season will continue until September and travellers must remain alert to potential flood related disruption to air and rail transportation. Smog in Indonesia is unlikely to be resolved in the near term and travellers should check air quality status and health warnings for their destination; travellers with respiratory problems should consult their doctor. The current forest fires are not the cause of current smog problems in Jakarta but the air quality index is at unhealthy levels. Following the recent seismic activity in Indonesia and Japan, travellers should expect aftershocks hours, days, or weeks after the initial earthquake.

The bombs in Bangkok and bomb threat in Kuala Lumpur are reminders of our constant advice to clients that terrorism or political violence risk in parts of Southeast Asia must be part of any corporate or leisure traveller’s pre-departure security review. In Kuala Lumpur there are several upcoming trials all of which may result in security related events including demonstrations and bomb threats. Najib was recently warned not to publish social media posts about the trials, which may indicate authorities’ concern about the risk of violence. 

We also advise travellers in northeast Asia to monitor typhoon activity, most notably Lekima which might cause travel disruption and other weather related events such as landslides and flooding.

Hong Kong Unrest: Safe to Visit

Clients outside Hong Kong continue to inquire with us about the safety of visiting. With protests that can quickly morph from small demonstrations to a larger event, travellers must of course be vigilant throughout Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories. The security situation is complicated by anti-protestor elements who engage in criminal action against protestors as a form of intimidation, as well as police frustration related to tension and fatigue; both factors increase the risk that violence can escalate not only at the sites of protests, but also in areas that protestors pass by or congregate at away from protest sites or public transportation. Disruptions to public transportation and air travel are also a factor that inbound visitors must consider. 

We agree with the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ travel advisory for Hong Kong, that travellers should avoid any reported locations of upcoming protest rallies and other large public gatherings. Foreign national visitors and residents are not immune from arrest and should of course avoid attending protests out of curiosity. 

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau Outbound Travel AlertThere are no changes to the Hong Kong Security Bureau’s Outbound Travel Alert in the past week. Notwithstanding that the Security Bureau is busy with Hong Kong events, the failure to update its Thailand page for last week’s bomb explosions is a concerning omission especially as the Thailand page describes numerous bomb attacks in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand between 2015 and 2018.

SafePro Group is a global travel security and protection specialist firm. With a veteran team from law enforcement, military, and intelligence services throughout Asia, SafePro Group provides corporate, government, and non-profit organisation travelers with comprehensive solutions to guarantee their safety and security.
Shipping out? Check in first with HT’s travel advisory by SafePro.

SafePro Group is a global travel security and protection specialist firm. With a veteran team from law enforcement, military, and intelligence services throughout Asia, SafePro Group provides corporate, government, and non-profit organisation travelers with comprehensive solutions to guarantee their safety and security.

Does this column make you feel unsafe? Worried about traveling in Asia? Send your questions about travel security to [email protected]

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