The Australian Government has urged travellers to be highly cautious in parts of Indonesia and Malaysia, due to fears popular tourist spots may be targeted by terror attacks.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) updated travel advice to the Southeast Asian countries this week, and on Thursday warned “terrorists may be in the advanced stages of preparing attacks in Indonesia”.
DFAT advised a high degree of caution right across the Indonesian archipelago, including the popular Australian tourist spot of Bali.
It followed a deadly attack at a Starbucks cafe in Jakarta on January 14 that killed eight, including the four attackers.
In Malaysia, DFAT said normal precautions should be exercised in most parts of the country, but updated advice on Sunday urged caution in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, as “terrorists may be planning attacks in and around” the city.
The advice level did not change.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate and may target Western interests or locations frequented by Westerners,” DFAT said.
“You should be particularly vigilant at this time.”
‘At the moment, Indonesia is safe’
The warnings from Australian authorities could be a result of increased chatter on social media and propaganda videos, Indonesia’s National Police spokesman Agus Rianto said.
Local supporters of Islamic State have been circulating threats against police and national targets, such as embassies, government offices and airports, he said.
“We have not found anything worrying … at the moment, Indonesia is safe,” Mr Rianto said.
Australia’s Justice Minister Michael Keenan travelled to Jakarta to meet Indonesian authorities earlier this week to discuss counter-terror efforts.
“Indonesia and our neighbours are all targets for [Islamic State]-inspired terrorism in the same way as Australia,” Mr Keenan said.
“We are working in close co-operation with our neighbours to keep the region safe from terror.”
Australians likely to be unperturbed by changed warnings
Despite heightened security concerns from DFAT, many travellers will power on with their travel plans, according to one travel specialist.
“Most of them will take the chance,” Travelzoo’s Niamh Walsh told The New Daily, adding that this was due to the unpredictable nature of terror events.
“By and large in my experience Australian travellers are rather resilient. We estimate anywhere up to 70 per cent of people won’t change their travel plans when there has been change in circumstances – whether it is man-made or natural.
“For example when the cyclone hit Fiji [on February 20], it didn’t change the travel plans of many people, the same with the volcano in Bali.”
Status of neighbouring countries
Travellers should be also highly cautious in some other parts of South East Asia.
This included Myanmar, currently the site of civil unrest and sporadic armed conflict, the Philippines, which DFAT stated had a “high threat of a terrorist attack and … high level of crime”. Terror attacks and civil unrest were also a possibility in Thailand, including Bangkok and Phuket.
Timor-Leste has been stable for the past few years, but some localised “street gang clashes and anti-government demonstrations” have occurred. Most of Laos was deemed to have a normal level of caution, apart from the central province of Xaisomboun which was the scene of arbitrary shootings in November.
Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam were are safe to travel to.
– with ABC and AAP