safe from government officials who readily abuse their power

Travel Forums General Talk safe from government officials who readily abuse their power

1. Posted by RickBOhio (First Time Poster 1 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

How can I travel and see the worst of the 3rd world while still feeling safe from government officials who readily abuse their power? Would hiring a bodyguard/driver who is an off-duty local policeman through a security firm help or perhaps even hurt?

In Malaysia, I read about multiple occurances of an African American arrested and held in horrible conditions for 24 hours when some scruffy fellow approached each one asking for their passport but of course they could not show the passport because it was at their hotel literally a few hundred feet away.
Also, a couple in their 60's from the US had six men beat from the Islamic morality patrol on their door demanding to see their marriage certificate and to see the color of his elderly wife's face.
Here is the link of the news story which details both:

Also, relatives have told me of having to hide valuables and being forced to pay a cash fine after making a wrong turn in Mexico and then being stopped by police for turning around in a parking lot which apparently was illegal to do.

I'm told in some countries literally everyone carries a gun including most taxi drivers, too? And sometimes the taxi drivers will just rob you?

2. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

For a minute there I thought you were describing any number of Western world countries..... seriously, most of these things happen in any country in the world, and then some! Does that make me feel like i can't walk down the road for a pack of milk? No, and the same should go for travelling ....

Of course the usual "don't be foolish", "respect local customs/traditions" etc. etc. applies, but I think that goes for most countries.

Just my opinion, but there's no way I'd give up travelling just because of a few horror stories.....

3. Posted by Ahila (Inactive 1529 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I agree with Sam. Bad things could happen, wherever you are, in your own country or while travelling. Fear of possible misadventure should not prevent anyone from travelling, especially those who love to travel. It is always wise to do some background research and read about the particular country's culture and traditions so as to avoid possible offences, committed unknowingly.

I am a bit confused, however, by your first line where you start with 'how do i see the worst of the third world'.

4. Posted by Hien (Travel Guru 3906 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Richard,

The two cases that happened in Malaysia recently were great embarrassments to the country and it was publicised worldwide. We admit that the government officials involved were simply being overzealous and had made wrong judgement in enforcing the laws. The government had announced that they are reviewing the procedures for the religious officials enforcing the laws. One of the steps is that the religious officials can only perform searches upon a report from the public, not on their own operations.

But do not let this two "isolated" cases affect your plans in visiting Malaysia or any other third world country. Like Sam said, cases of bad judgement and overzealous officials could happen anywhere, even in the USA itself. I have heard many from many Malaysians travelling to USA telling me about the "special treatment" they received at the immgration entry points even though they had done nothing wrong and they entered on visas issued by the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur after going through strict vetting processes and interviews. This was largely due to the stereotyping of us being a majority muslim country (60%) thus the possibility of us being terrorists. But this has never prevented any of us who wanted to go to the states to go visit the country.

I can assure you that not all government officials are like what they did in the two incidents. As a matter of fact, there were many times where the service and treatment given to foreigners and tourists (especially caucasians) were better than the locals themselves. Like the case of the elderly couple being harrassed by the religious officials, the minister of tourism himself met up with the couple to apologise for the incident. Locals will never ever get such an apology from a high-ranking government officer, let alone the minister himself.

I think all of us have the tendency of our outlook of a country to be affected by bad news. But then, which country doesn't have them? If you take into account the good things that thousands of visitors have to say about a place, a few bad incidents can be considered isolated and negligible.

5. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hello RickBOhio

I dont think it is possibly to be 100% safe, from harassment by the authorities, in some countries.
U can only take precautions.
Avoid crime against u, by not wandering around isolated places alone, or with other foreigners. eg. Do no walk from village to village, in Mexico. Also, keep all valuables and shiney looking jewelery out of sight, while traveling anywhere, where there is poverty.
Dont engage in conversations about politics, religion or human rights in certain countries. ie. Countries with poor human rights records.
Before reporting crimes against u, consider the country u are in. Consider how complicated and lengthy reporting will be and what punishments are applied, for that crime, in that particular country. ie people can be beaten and have limbs cut off, for stealing your money, in some places.
Avoid all drugs, in certain countries.
In some countries, u should be careful about what u take photos of. ie. Dont take photos of any government builings or army stuff, in China.

The above are only examples. Find out as much as u can, about being safe, in any country, before u go there.


[ Edit: Edited on Feb 21, 2007, at 3:05 AM by Mel. ]