Security under control despite travel alerts: Sabah

The view of the jetty in Sapi Island, located in Sabah, Malaysia.
The view of the jetty in Sapi Island, located in Sabah, Malaysia. PHOTO: FAUZIE LAILY

KOTA KINABALU • The authorities in the East Malaysian state of Sabah said security remained tight and under control, following warnings by Britain, Australia and New Zealand that their citizens should avoid travelling to Sabah coastal islands.

The warnings cited high threats to foreigners of kidnapping and criminality in the islands that border the southern Philippines.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office last week raised the terrorism threat level for the islands to "high" from "general", and advised against all but essential travel.

There has been an increase in kidnapping by groups operating in the southern Philippines, some with the ability to do so on the coast of Sabah, the office said, while also citing an earthquake that took place last June and increased instances of haze.

Australia advises its citizens to avoid all travel to the coastal resorts of eastern Sabah, including the islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities, owing to the high threat of kidnapping.

New Zealand classifies travel to the area as "high risk".

The United States' State Department does not have a travel advisory specifically for Malaysia.

In a travel warning for the Philippines, updated last October, it said US citizens should defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, a chain of islands between south Philippines and Sabah, because of the high threat of kidnapping and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism.

Responding to the travel advice, the chief of Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) said things are under control. Commander Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said the Esscom security forces have not received any new threats.

"There are no imminent threats that can jeopardise the state's security and safety of the people," he said when contacted by New Straits Times.

Sabah's Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Masidi Manjun said: "The fact that all the island resorts are packed with tourists is a clear indication of tourists' confidence in the security situation in the east coast of Sabah."

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline 'Security under control despite travel alerts: Sabah'. Print Edition | Subscribe