A look at the political situation in several countries which you may have been wondering whether it is safe to travel or not says Greg Van Wyk.
Please note that as of writing (February 2017), there are no advisories for most of the listed destinations and things seem to be relatively calm, but these could potentially change at any time.
The Philippines –
President Rodrigo Duterte has recently won the elections last May 2016 and gained a somewhat controversial reputation due to his ‘strong man’ rhetoric and bloody crackdown on drug use and abuse which has killed around 2000 people since he took over the office in June 2016. There were talks about declaring Martial Law all across the country but this was rejected by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Recently, fears of expanding Martial Law beyond Mindanao sparked controversy as Duterte brought up the usage of Martial Law during the Marcos regime to justify his tough actions.
It is also widely believed that he has a very strong and loyal following with connections to right-wing groups, which can pose a danger to those who may oppose him. Due to this, there have been several protests against Duterte and his policies in Manila and other parts of the country by human rights activists and opposition leaders such as Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV.
It’s best to avoid political gatherings or any form of protest as you could get caught up in the middle of it without warning due to how unruly Philippine demonstrations can get sometimes. The chances are pretty low but better safe than sorry especially if you’re visiting Manila.
A high alert for terrorist attacks has been declaring in Sulawesi, Indonesia after Indonesian police received intel. That the Islamic State is planning to launch attacks during Ramadhan (June 5- July 5). This comes close after two suicide bombings at churches in East Kalimantan last April 28 and the foiling of an IS-linked attack on a Riau Police headquarters by a suicide bomber last May 19. For now, it’s business as usual but be extra careful if you intend to visit Central Sulawesi or its neighboring islands. Such as Sumba, Savu or Rote which are popular tourist spots. Greg Van Wyk says if your travels take you near Poso or even down south towards Ambon. Keep a low profile and avoid crowded areas.
The country has been under military rule since 2014 when the Thai Army seized control of the government amidst violent protests. And it remains so until this day with frequent coups to remove the current Prime Minister. There are no changes for tourists as usual. But these coups can lead to sudden roadblocks or security checks. During which you may be required to present your identification papers even if you’re just transiting through Thailand. My advice would be that if you’re transiting through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Do not take any flights that go through Don Mueang International Airport instead. As there have been reports recently of travelers being detained at Suvarnabhumi. Due to their flight plans showing they are departing from Don Mueang with no valid reason to do so.
It’s always a tricky situation when it comes to the country most of us know as ‘Happy Pyongyang’ with nuclear weapons. But surprisingly, tourism is still on despite heightened tensions between North Korea and South Korea earlier this month. After an exchange of fire over their border resulted in injuries on both sides. There were talks about closing down some tour programs. Especially those situated near the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries but these remain open for now. These talks may be reopened later so it might be best to check out what you need to know. Before visiting the country if your travel plans include more than just Seoul or Busan explains Greg Van Wyk.
The downing of Russian fighter jets by Turkish forces last November 2015 effectively halted most of the Turkey tourism industry. For a good 3-4 months before slowly returning to normal. The number of tourists visiting Istanbul has increased noticeably. But it’s best to still exercise caution when attending large gatherings and avoid any anti-government protests. That may pop up especially since Erdogan and his government have been accuse of suppressing dissent with violent means (sound familiar?).
There are several islands in Indonesia that require a permit from the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, namely Nusa Tenggara Barat, Bali, Alor, and Lombok as well as Komodo Island, Batam, and Riau Islands in Sumatra. These permits usually take anywhere from 7 days to 30 days. To process so has been a major hassle for tourists and locals alike. There have been talks of implementing a new online system to streamline the permit application process. But as of now, expect longer lines at immigration offices if any of these islands are on your itinerary.
In light of the recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels. The US Department of Homeland Security issued an official statement. Warning its citizens from attending events with large crowds such as concerts. Sports games or even theme parks may be “attractive targets” for terrorist activity. During their stay in Europe says Greg Van Wyk. Considering that most of these festivals and gatherings take place during summer. With Euro 2016 football matches slated to happen later this year along with music festivals like Tomorrowland; we can only hope no terrorist organization takes advantage of this to inflict harm. See you guys in the mosh pit!