Southeast Asia is generally a peaceful place. Most of the countries in the subcontinent are either under control of a socialist party or the army. Therefore there isn’t a lot of violence, like in Central and South America. But still, there are several places that you should seriously consider before visiting. This list includes the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia.
7. The borders between Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos
The Vietnam War in the 60s expanded to Laos and Cambodia, as there were groups supporting the North Vietnamese army in both countries. This resulted in heavy bombing of both countries. And this was mostly done in the forests next to the border where the militants were hiding. But a lot of civilians died as well. Most of the mines have been removed from the big cities and the touristy places. However, there are still a lot of mines in these areas. So if you want to explore the lush forests in this area, I have some bad news for you.
Just as an indication, Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in the history of mankind. The US forces took 580,000 bombing missions. This equals one bombing in every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, through a stretch of 9 years.
6. Kachin and northern Shan, Myanmar
Because of the difficult political situation the country is in, most of the areas near the borders of Myanmar are risky. Ethnic militias, armed drug smugglers and the presence of landmines pose a particularly high risk to visitors. The country’s main problem, however, includes clashes between the government troops and rebels. This is mostly done in the states of Kachin and Northern Shan. Some parts also have ongoing Buddhist vs. Muslim ethnic conflicts for some time now. Therefore, wandering off into these areas can cost you your limbs, or even worse, your lives. Last year, two German tourists were heavily injured. They activated a mine while walking through a part of Shan. This is where the most intensive firefights have been happening in the past years.
5. Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
The city of Poso in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia has the potential to be a tourist attraction with its sunny beaches and blue skies. But tourism has suffered in the past years. Separatist movements became stronger in the beginning of the 2000s. Even today, a paramilitary group that has ties with the Islamic State is still active there, according to the media. After the transition to democracy, relations between Muslim and Christians worsened. And in some places, most notably Poso, both sides armed themselves and started threatening each other. There were a lot of bombings and civilians were shot in the streets on several occasions. After the incidents, this became one of the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia.
4. Papua and West Papua, Indonesia/New Guinea
The Papua Conflict is an outgoing conflict between the Indonesian government and the indigenous population. The Indonesian government is accused by the locals of trying to commit a genocide. Their main opponent is the armed group Free Papua Movement. The movement committed series of attacks, including an attack on buses, a civilian aircraft, and drug smuggling as well. The conflict has made West Papua one of the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia.
3. Jolo province, Philippines
This Philippine island in the Sulu Sea has a notorious reputation among tourists. That has a lot to do with Abu Sayyaf, a group of Muslim rebels famous for kidnapping tourists and asking for ransom. The group counts around 500 members and the group uses Jolo as a base. They chose this place for a base, because local officials and the locals cooperate with the kidnappers in exchange for cuts of the ransom, according to media sources. And the fact that the coast is near allows speedboats to get away fast with their victims. That’s the main reason why tourists travel with private security.
2. Mindanao, Philippines
Mindanao has had problems with Islamic Insurgent armies that have been fighting for independence since the 1960s. The ongoing conflict has contributed to an interesting local phenomenon: Warlordism. And this is making the situation even worse. Families of politicians, supported by the central government have created personal armies to supposedly fight the rebels, but that also contributed to the local state of chaos. It’s a shame that this island is in this kind of situation because its tourism potential is enormous.
1. Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, Thailand
These southern Thai provinces are currently under a state of Martial Law. These parts of Thailand are very different than the nice, touristy places. Most of the population living in these parts is Muslim. Separatist group has been battling the government for the past 15 years, in a conflict that becomes more violent every day. The conflict began with an attempt from the central government to redraw the borders and what is claimed to be an attempt to erase the local culture. This conflict took the lives of 6,000 people in Southern Thailand between in the past 12 years. Ever since the conflict, the region saw a drastic increase in human trafficking. Even high Thai military personnel was involved in several cases. All these incidents make South Thailand one of the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia.