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Pirates & kidnapping in Malaysia
Piracy is a problem in Malaysia - and we're not talking about a few fake Rolex's and a new release DVD which was actually captured on a mobile phone by a bloke in row 5! We mean bandits in boats who want you for the ransom you'll fetch. Don't be mistaken, this is no swashbuckling adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow - these pirates mean business!
Piracy Hot Spots
There are a few hot spots, however since the Malaysian government increased look-outs, boosted security and sent the army on patrol following a spree of tourist kidnappings in the early 2000's the actual risk is much reduced.
(Click here to go to this Google map)
Strait of Malacca
This 805 km stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra has been know for piracy. Piracy and kidnapping in this area is something travellers should be aware of. Since 2003 the amount of kidnappings has dropped more than half thanks to increased patrols in this area.
Lahad Datu is located on the island of Borneo. There are still some reports of speed boats in these waters armed with machine guns so the best advice would be to stick to the land if travelling in a small group or alone. Lahad is flooded with tourist resorts - making it a target. Don‘t visit deserted ATMs on the water front at night if you don‘t want to chance being a pirates treasure!
In the past, particular concern was for isolated resorts which can only be reached by water. This includes the islands of Sipadan and Mabul. While still a risk, the increased patrol in this area will put travellers minds at rest to let them soak up the sun, pirate free.
What To Do
If you do run into some unlucky trouble, keep the following in mind:
- The pirates may in fact NOT have a talking parrot.
- Remember that each kidnapping situation is different, so what you‘ve seen on TV may not apply to you.
- Attempt to relate to the kidnappers by speaking their language (if you can), this may help build some kind of rapport.
- Keep track of time. You may be held for a considerable amount of time, so its best not to become confused about the time of day.
- Maintain your dignity.
- Build a rapport with anyone who is captive with you. They may be useful for an escape and so that's a friend you want to keep!
- Attempt to maintain your physical condition. Just like when you‘re chained to your office chair, its important to keep your legs moving.
- Attempt to maintain your mental health. Daydreaming, running through daily routines - these activities will help you keep hold of your grip on reality.
- Take notes on your captors and where they are holding you. This information may be valuable when you have been rescued or are able to signal for help.
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The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs has updated its travel warning for eastern Sabah, and now says Do Not Travel to the region because of an incursion by armed intruders and an ongoing military operation to remove them.
Malaysia represents different things to different people: A melting pot of cultures, a vibrant developing nation and a haven of natural bio-diversity.
Malaysia is considered low risk when it comes to scams on tourists, although petty theft is still quite high. Why tempt fate with that bag hanging off your shoulder w hile exploring the cities or slums of Malaysia?