I am heading to Eastern Malaysia & Indonesia in two weeks time & have been hearing rumours about the rise in kidnappings of Westerners in these areas (especially East Malaysia - we are going to Sabah....). Does anyone have any info/advice on this?
never heard about it - Malaysia is secure, not so sure about Indonesia
I don't remember hearing any since the kidnapping in the Sipadan island since a few years ago. (see CNN: Hunt intensifies for gunmen behind tourist kidnapping at Malaysian resort)
The Malaysian government have in the middle of last year, ordered resorts to leave the island. (see The Star: Order to leave Sipadan) Although the main reason for the order was to preserve the island from further damage, I believe it was also meant to prevent another episode of kidnapping from happening again should the Abu Sayyaf group feel the need to "request" for something.
I think Sabah itself is generally safe due to maritime and air patrols now, but try to remain on the mainland. I would be a bit sus about the islands nearer to the Phillipines where the Abu Sayyaf rebels kidnapped tourists in 2000 for ransom (not terrorism).
Maybe you could call the places you were intending to stay and ask if "Ops Pasir" by the military is still on.
On another incident, I read that the kidnapping in Kunak 2003 occured because the resort was operating illegally and the authorities were not notified so that security protection could be extended to the resort.
All in all, i would say it is safe to visit. But try not to go off the beaten tracks near the Phillipines.
I'm not sure about Indonesia but certainly have not heard about kidnappings in East Malaysia. I have a few friends in Sabah and Sarawak and they've heard nothing either.
I think the general rule of travelling safety applies to Malaysia as you would apply to any other country of travel. This is to say like not walking down some dark alley way late at night or basically stand out like a sore thumb and attracting unnecessary attention, that kind of stuff.
Hope that helps. If you go to Sabah, make sure you go up Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia
My friends from Sabah and Sarawak just came to visit me! No! Not al all. Anyway, just be more cautious!
The Philippines is quite notorious for kidnappings, especially in the south. This of course borders the north of Sabah