Southeast Asia is generally a peaceful region, with most of the countries either under the control of a socialist party or the army. These countries are also filled with emerging tourist destinations where you won’t find a lot of violence, like some other places in the world. However, there are still several places that you should seriously think twice about before visiting. And this list includes these places: here are the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia.
7. The borders between Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos
The Vietnam War in the 1960s’ expanded to Laos and Cambodia, as there were groups supporting the North Vietnamese army in both countries. As a result, heavy bombing of both countries followed, mostly in the forests next to the border where the militants were hiding. However, despite the remoteness of the region, this still caused a high toll of civilian victims. After the war, the local authorities removed most landmines from the big cities and the touristy places but there are still a lot of landmines in the tripoint between the three countries. This narrow strip of land has an amazing natural beauty but it’s highly recommendable for tourists to avoid due to the huge number of active landmines in the region.
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 to one bombing in every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, through a stretch of 9 years.
6. Mindanao, Philippines
Mindanao is certainly one of the most beautiful places in the Philippines and it’s true: media does have a way of sensationalizing things. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Mindanao has had some bad things happening in the past. Several active Islamic Insurgent armies that have been active in the region fighting for independence since the 1960s’. The ongoing conflict has contributed to an interesting local phenomenon: warlordism, which is making the situation even worse. Families of politicians, supported by the central government have created personal armies to supposedly fight the rebels. However, that didn’t make things any better. There isn’t a history of tourists being attacked on the island but nevertheless, governments still advice their citizens against visiting the second largest island in the Philippines.
Are you looking for some unique unusual things to do in the Philippines? Check out my guide to the best-hidden gems in Manila
5. Kachin and northern Shan, Myanmar
The difficult political situation the country has made most of the areas near the borders of Myanmar pretty 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. Wandering off into these areas can cost you your limbs, or even worse, your lives. Last year, two German tourists were heavily injured while traveling in the region when they activated a mine while walking passing by in a small town in Northern Shah. Unfortunately, intensive firefights have been common in the region, resulting in a total of 99,036 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the last few years.
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4. Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Nestled between predominately Muslim South Sulawesi and predominantly Christian North Sulawesi, it’s easy to see how this region could become a battleground for years to come. The city of Poso in Central Sulawesi is a perfect example. It had (and still does) the potential to be a tourist attraction with its sunny beaches, lush forests, and blue skies. However, tourism suffered dramatically in recent years due to the active separatist movements at 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. This resulted in religious tensions across the region, most notably Poso. Events such as bombings and civilians being shot in the streets shocked the world on several occasions. After the incidents, this became one of the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia. The situation is much better in 2018 but Governments still advice their citizens to exercise caution when traveling to Central Sulawesi Province especially in Palu, Poso, and Tentena.
3. Papua and West Papua, Indonesia/New Guinea
Getting to West Papua is a bit tricky and a travel permit is a must if you want to enter. Similar to Central Sulawesi, West Papua has an ongoing conflict between the Indonesian government and the indigenous population and the Indonesian government is even accused by locals of trying to commit a genocide. Their main opponent is the armed group Free Papua Movement. The movement committed a series of attacks, including an attack on buses, a civilian aircraft, and drug smuggling. However, West Papua is a huge piece of land that has some pristine, intact places that are certainly worth visiting but there are also some that you may want to avoid. Today, most governments still advice their citizens to be careful when traveling to West Papua Province due to the possibilities of a violent conflict.
2. 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 rebel group famous for kidnapping tourists and asking for ransom. The group counts around 500 members and 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. Additionally, the fact that the coast is near to the city allows speedboats to get away quickly with their victims. That’s the main reason why many tourists travel through this area with private security. Furthermore, over the past few years, terrorist acts involving explosive devices have resulted in 41 deaths, and severe injury to over 100 people in Jolo and a few surrounding cities in the area.
1. Yala, Narathiwat, and Pattani, Thailand
These southern Thai provinces are currently under a state of Martial Law. It’s a very different version of Thailand, one you don’t get to see in the media. Most of the population living in these parts is Muslim and separatist groups have been battling the government for the past 15 years, in a conflict that becomes more violent every day. The conflict began with an attempt by the central government to redraw the borders in what is claimed to be an attempt to erase the local culture. This conflict took the lives of 6,000 people in Southern Thailand in the past 12 years. Ever since the conflict, the region saw a drastic increase in human trafficking, with high Thai military personnel involved in several cases. All these incidents make South Thailand one of the most dangerous places in Southeast Asia.
Related: Things to know before visiting Thailand.
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