Sunday, July 13, 2014

Malaysia: Police Officer Killed, Another Kidnapped in Borneo, Deterrence Must Increase

According to AFP, a Malaysian police officer was killed and another kidnapped after heavily armed gunmen opened fire at a Malaysian diving resort off Borneo island, a fresh escalation of violence in the tourist magnet, a security official said Sunday (July 13).

The shooting on Saturday (July 12) on Mabul Island is the latest in a spate of abductions in Malaysia's remote Sabah state, home to some of the world's best diving sites, yet travel agents report that the violence has already impacted on tourism. 

One security official said that the gunmen are from the Sulu islands in the Philippines, often described as the country's abduction capital.

Describing the deadly incident that happened late on Saturday, police spokesperson Abdul Rashid said an outpost guarding a resort on Mabul was ambushed by at least six to eight masked gunmen wearing black T-shirts and military trousers.  

Tan Kok Liang, vice president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents told AFP the latest incident was a "blatant challenge" to Malaysia's security. 

COMMENT:  It is my professional opinion, that Malaysian authorities could be taking external security threats much more seriously than in the past as their level of deterrence should actually EXCEED the capacity of regional criminals.

Tourism is a major source of foreign currency for Malaysia, and Sabah state in particular.

Expressing his condolences to the security forces, Tan said there had already been a 10% decline in tourist arrivals in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year. 

Sabah receives about 3.5 million tourist arrivals annually, including those from China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Europe. 

The kidnapping of a police officer is the fourth incident of its kind in Sabah since April.

In June a 32-year-old Malaysian fish breeder and his Filipino worker were seized by Filipino gunmen from their farm. They have yet to be released.

In May 2014, a Chinese fish farm manager was abducted from his farm, while in April a female Chinese tourist and a Filipino resort worker were abducted. All three have been released. 

Abdul Rashid said the attack on the police officers could have been in retaliation for the escalation of anti-criminal activity in Sabah. 

A security zone was set up last year after Islamic guerrillas of Sulu origin from the southern Philippines staged a bloody assault in the area to stake a historical claim, leaving dozens dead including security forces. 

The Philippine-based militant group, Abu Sayyaf, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, was blamed for the abduction of 21 people, including several foreign tourists, from a Sabah diving resort in 2000.