Business & VIP Travel Safety in China

While a lot of travel security and safety advice is generic in nature, different locations often have specific conditions that make them worthy of special mention. In this blog post, we discuss travel safety in China. Our area of expertise is the Asia-Pacific region and we’ll be discussing several different countries in this area in the coming weeks. You can also hear us discuss it on the Wheels Up podcast over here.

The commentary is based on several visits to China, including cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan, and Nanjing among others. Though they are all part of China, the diverse locations within the country also give exposure to the diverse cultures and languages that coexist within the nation.

The first point to make is that Chinese people are very friendly by nature and have become very used to hosting visitors in the nation with more than 60 million inbound tourists staying each year (2015 stats). As friendly as they are, it takes time to earn their trust so business travellers need to take this into account. Follow our expert advice and tips on travel safety in China.

Before You Leave

You’ll hear us say time and time again that most travel security concerns can and should be addressed before you leave for your destination.

The obvious consideration for most destinations is visa requirements. China has a fairly stringent process that normally takes time to work through. If you are travelling on business then make sure you apply for the correct visa type.  If the need is urgent they can turn a visa application around within 2 days but, as you’d expect, you pay a premium for this service.

For first-time visitors, you will only qualify for a single-entry or double-entry visa. On subsequent visits, you may qualify for a multi-entry visa.

Arrival and Beyond

If you have connecting flights that you pick up in Shanghai or Beijing, note that both of these cities have two major airports with some distance between them. Your booking agent or travel manager should point this out when making the booking but check your itinerary to see which airports you are arriving and departing from as you may also need to arrange transport between them.

Travel Safety in China

Most cities in China are quite safe but keep in mind that due to censorship laws the media, and even social media, may not reflect the full story. On occasion, we’ve heard of violent crime happening while we were there but only through word of mouth as the incident was unreported in the media.

In general, high levels of real-time surveillance probably help make parts of China safer than other parts of the world. This includes facial recognition software in a lot of circumstances so be aware that your movements will probably be traceable as you would have likely been scanned on entry. If you’re behaving above board though, that shouldn’t be an issue.

Cyber Safety in China

From a cyber safety point of view, China has some pretty sophisticated criminal syndicates so do your best to protect your digital information. Keep your devices off as much as possible (especially at airports as they are a fertile hunting ground for hackers) and use a ‘burner phone’ with minimal data on it. If you have to go online, make use of a virtual private network (VPN – we’ll have a post and podcast episode on that soon).

Money Problems

Keep an eye out for counterfeit currency as tourists are the least qualified to spot it. The official currency includes a watermark of Chairman Mao on the side or edge of each note. You should also be able to feel the image of Chairman Mao as being raised relative to the rest of the note.

Taxis in China

We usually recommend a security driver for business travel but accept that many travellers prefer to use taxis. Most Chinese taxi drivers do not speak English so be well prepared. Ask the concierge at the hotel or someone from the meeting(s) you have attended to write down your destinations in Chinese. If you have multiple destinations in a day have them create a list so you can work through them.

Ask the concierge also for an approximate price so you know if you’re being ‘taken for a ride’ so to speak when it comes time to pay up. Most operators will use the meter but some may try to offer you a flat rate. Best to avoid these as the rate will be tipped in their favour. Where possible, ask them to put the meter on or have the concierge at the hotel ask them for you.

Speaking of being taken for a ride, male travellers should beware of offers from your taxi driver to take you somewhere for ‘entertainment.’ If you find yourself on the seedy side of town, you could very well find yourself at the mercy of undesirables and facing a large cab fare to get you back to safety.

Intercity Travel Safety in China

If you’re fortunate enough to travel via private jet in China you’ll be at an advantage. However, be aware that flight windows can be very small. If you are slow getting out of the hotel or extend a meeting there’s a good chance you’ll miss your window and find yourself delayed unnecessarily. Make sure your team is in contact with the fixed-base operator (FBO) and heed their warnings if they tell you the schedule is tight.

If a private jet is beyond your budget, consider rail for secure intercity travel. At more than 500 km/hour (300 mph) these are a swift and often more reliable means of getting around than air, especially considering that the military can often close airspace at random times.

Leisure Warnings

If you find yourself having some downtime in China, be cautious of ‘students’ asking if they can share some tea with you so they can practice their English. Chances are they will lead you to a tea house that is charging exorbitant prices and giving them a kickback for bringing them there.

Another travel security risk to be highly warry of is Chinese contacts inviting you out for a karaoke evening. Karaoke is often a front for something seedier and you could well find yourself in a compromising situation. This can even extend to having your drink spiked and you being put into situations beyond your control. At worst it can involve you being relieved of your wallet or your hotel room being ransacked.

Food in China

It’s no secret that the Chinese have an appetite that goes beyond what most of us would eat at home. It’s no secret to the Chinese either so in most cases they will understand if you respectfully decline to eat a particular dish. Err on the side of caution because if whatever is on the menu isn’t so agreeable, it could compromise the success of your visit.

Travel Security Tips and Hospitals

Most hospitals that a traveller might come into contact with in China are of a reasonable standard. Where possible though, we recommend using a private hospital if the choice is available and your insurance covers it. Our observation is that they tend to be better equipped and have more qualified staff than some of the state-run facilities. As we’ve said in our post and podcast about travel security in general, try to identify potential hospitals in advance where possible.

Businesslike Conduct

Corruption and fraud laws in China are similar to most countries but the consequences may be greater so be cautious about entering into any dodgy practices. Having said that, gifts are commonplace in Asian culture so don’t be afraid of giving or receiving these. Just ensure that the magnitude of the gift couldn’t be mistaken as a bribe or some other way of circumventing legitimate business dealings.

Cultural Respect

It goes without saying that China has much less freedom of speech than most of us enjoy. Don’t think that as a foreigner that you might be exempt from these rules. Be conscious of what you say to others and, if using social media, ensure that there’s nothing that might inflame local authorities. At best, you might put future visas at risk and at worst, you could find yourself in the confines of a local police cell. If you’re in their country, respect their laws, their customs, and their culture.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, China hosts more than 60 million tourists who stay overnight or longer each year. Most pass through without incident and most have an enjoyable time. Consider our Business and VIP Travel Safety in China is an essentials guide to help you make informed decisions regarding safety, security, and risk mitigation. Furthermore, stick to the rules and follow the tips we’ve shared above and you’ll likely find the same for your travels.

For additional pre-travel tips, sign up for our Business Travelers’ Essential Pre-Departure Travel and Security Checklist below.

 

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Business Travelers’ Ground Travel and Post-Travel Checklist

Business Travelers’ Ground Travel and Post-Travel Checklist

In our last post, we ran through the essentials that business travellers should cover before setting out on a journey. We will run through the safety and security essentials for the ground travel and post-travel phase of your journey.

In this section, we highlight the value of being prepared. If you spend some time planning your journey and prepare before departing, then your travels will be far safer. In the event that risk presents itself, then you’ll be in a better position to respond to it.

You can also hear us discuss this part of the ground travel and post-travel checklist on The Wheels Up Podcast and download our pdf of the infographic and checklist at the bottom of this page.

Ground Travel Checklist 

  • Check your corporate travel policy for permissible options (If you don’t have a corporate travel policy, we can help with that)

  • Avoid rideshare services. They are currently less regulated than cabs and have fewer security features (e.g. cameras in the vehicle). In some countries, the vehicles can be of a very low standard, dangerous even (especially mopeds and scooters).

  • Touts – drivers offering services unsolicited within the airport (or on the street). Do not use these. They are unregulated and usually offering the service illegally.

  • Public transport. Avoid public transport where possible. Crowded areas are an attractive target for mass casualty attacks and petty crime.

  • Cabs. Use clearly marked cabs that have driver’s registration and ID on display and back-to-base communications. These will be regulated.

  • Security drivers (preferred option). Arrange this in advance. Vehicles and drivers will be of a higher standard with security training and back-to-base communications. They can have the comforts of wifi, water, and snacks onboard. Have them use a predetermined code or alternate name on their welcome signage to keep their identity anonymous. (NB – If a proper security driver is not an option, you could also use a hotel-provided car/limousine service.)

Restaurants/Cafes/Bars

  • Get referrals in advance from friends, colleagues, or your travel manager.

  • Check with the hotel concierge on areas that are safe and those which are not.

  • Don’t risk sites that may have low hygiene standards (including roadside stands). Put it into a business perspective, you’ve travelled all this way to close a deal, you don’t want to be stuck in a bathroom with a bad bout of gastro and miss it.

Accommodation

  • If it hasn’t been arranged in advance, ask for a room on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th floors. Upper-level rooms may be great for getting a view but in the event of a fire, they may be out of reach of fire department equipment. 1st and 2nd floors are easy pickings for thieves.

  • Ask for a room away from the fire escape. Thieves prefer to workrooms near fire escapes for a quick exit if needed.

  • Latch your door and use an additional door stop or door jammer.

  • Hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your door, even if you aren’t in the room.

  • Arrange to have the room serviced while you are still in the room if you can.

When Things Go Bad (Riots, Terrorist Attacks, etc)

  • Avoid protests and large gatherings where possible

  • Move, Escape or Attack (Listen to the Wheels Up Podcast Episode 3 for a more detailed description.)

  • Turn your phone to silent. Use SMS text messages to communicate if safe.

  • Your personal safety is of primary importance – don’t stop to record or take photos. Listen and observe – you can report on this at a later stage. (e.g. descriptions of attackers or weapons, etc. may be helpful for authorities)

What To Do if Prompted for a Bribe By an Official

  • First and foremost, avoid these situations by all means.

  • Pretend you don’t understand the request

  • If you are travelling with local support or security detail, have them address the situation

  • Avoid making payments where possible but if and only if there is no there way out and payment must be made, ask for a receipt

Local Culture and Customs

  • Check what gestures may be offensive where you are going (e.g. Thumbs up has a different meaning in parts of Africa. OK sign used Brazil is the same as giving someone the middle finger). This Daily Mail article has a pretty thorough summary.

  • Learn how to say hello, goodbye, and thank you in the local language

Post Travel Essentials

  • Check credit card and bank accounts for unusual amounts or unfamiliar charges on the return

  • Get medical checks at the first sign of feeling unwell

  • File an After Action report. Write or dictate and provide to your corporate travel and security department

    • Document any issues that arose and what went well on the journey

    • List  local contacts or recommendations that other travellers in the business could benefit from

  • Change all IT passwords that you have used while away (these may have been compromised while using other wifi services).

Enter your details below to access the Business Travel Safety and Security Check List as a printable pdf.

And for the pre-travel post, click here

ground travel and post travel

Business Travel & Safety Check List

Securing Australia’s Commonwealth Games on The Gold Coast – Lessons from Rio

With attacks in Europe still haunting the public consciousness, the security of the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast warrants close attention. Thus far, Australia appears to be prudently attending to these risks. In May of this year, the Australian parliament passed an array of laws that give police the authority to search people and premises in specified areas.1 National security authorities also recently designed and implemented a strategy to protect crowded places from terror threats.2

The number of police, defence forces, and security personnel will outnumber athletes. As a part of the beefed-up security system, attendees will face airport-style screening. There will be fast-track lanes for people without bags, preventing the lines themselves from becoming too much of a target. Furthermore, Queensland Police and State Government have established Project Unite, a community safety campaign designed to deter, detect and disrupt criminal and terrorist activity prior to, during, and after the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Queensland Police and State Government have established Project Unite, a community safety campaign designed to deter, detect and disrupt criminal and terrorist activity prior to, during and after the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Given the challenges that Rio faced in the run-up to and during the 2016 Summer Olympics, it is a useful place to look for ways to be maximally prepared. There is little arguing that security was a major problem throughout the Olympics which organisers at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games wish to avoid.

Public authorities were ill-equipped to handle the rise in crime, due, in large part, to fiscal pressure from Brazil’s financial crisis. To protest their cut in compensation, police protested by welcoming tourists and athletes was signs announcing they would not be safe in Rio. In truth, police were foreshadowing the crises yet to come. Multiple athletes and coaches were robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint.

Security of one of the main emergency hospitals for the Olympics was breached as armed criminals broke into the facility and freed a suspected drug lord only a month before the games. On the terror-fighting front, authorities blew up the clothing-filled suitcase of the mother of an athlete after erroneously suspecting that it contained a bomb.3

Nonetheless, it would be unfair to ignore the legitimate efforts of the country to ensure security. To mitigate the threat of independent terror attacks, the government deployed a large number of military personnel to Rio, which increased the total number of security personnel by roughly 30%.4 Despite Brazil not being commonly considered a prime terror target, the country’s national intelligence reported to have taken the terror threat seriously.5

Organisers of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games have dedicated an additional 3500 police officers from across the state to augment the already 1000 officers who will be policing the Gold Coast.

The challenges that Australia’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is likely to face will differ considerably from those of Rio. For example, local and territorial violent criminal gangs are unlikely to be of problem for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as it was for the Olympic site. Although, there is still an element of organised crime gangs including outlaw motorcycle clubs operating in the area.

Furthermore, the threat of terrorism is one, which is being taken seriously. Any large gathering of spectators or crowds becomes a potential target for armed offenders, active shooters, “lone wolf”, religious and ideological threats, and anyone looking to make any form of political statement. Organisers of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games have dedicated an additional 3500 police officers from across the state to augment the already 1000 officers who will be policing the Gold Coast.

Nonetheless, authorities are developing a strategy to handle a diverse array of challenges by working with a broad network of security personnel from the public and private sectors. Strategically maintaining a role for private security firms, like local Gold Coast-based Panoptic Solutions, will bring in expertise from local companies with extensive knowledge of the region and specialised security personnel, complementing and strengthening the efforts of the police and national security.

 

[1]http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/sport/commonwealth-games/gold-coast-2018-commonwealth-games-organisers-resolute-on-security-measures-after-manchester-attack/news-story/e9247570a8ab963276a43edeb840591e

https://www.police.qld.gov.au/commonwealthgames/howwill/sentinel/Project-UNITE.htm

[2]https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Securityandyourcommunity/Pages/australias-strategy-for-protecting-crowded-places-from-terrorism.aspx

[3]http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/news/a62849/rio-2016-summer-olympics-security-fails-concerns/

[4]https://globalnews.ca/news/2861911/rio-2016-olympic-security-boosted-but-locals-wary-of-police-presence/

[5]https://www.google.co.th/search?q=RIo+olympics+vip+security&oq=RIo+olympics+vip+security&aqs=chrome..69i57.5615j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

Business Travelers’ Essential Pre-Departure Travel and Security Checklist

For any seasoned business traveller, the notion of pre-departure travel and security requirements may seem like an unnecessary concern. Safety demonstrations by flight attendants are for the benefit of ‘others’ and, beyond that, all you need to worry about is keeping your belongings safe. Perhaps not.

That may be the perception – indeed 99% of travels do occur without mishap – however, the consequences of misadventure are serious enough to warrant a little preparation. Just as our seatbelts are redundant for the vast majority of our car travels, when we actually need them, we’re glad that we took the trouble to put them on.

With this in mind, here is an essential pre-departure travel and security checklist that most business, executive and VIP travellers should meet, or at least have someone delegated to take care of them. They aren’t onerous but they can be life-saving, and at the very least help you avoid or cope with misfortune should it arise.

If your business has a travel policy, now would be a good time to run through it to check that everything is covered in it. And if you don’t have a travel policy, now would be a good time to develop one. (If you need help with that, let me know).

We’ve put together a pdf travel and security checklist that you can download below. You can find a more in-depth overview of this topic on the Wheels Up Podcast episode here. For now, we’ll cover the essential pre-departure travel and security requirements and the during and after travel essentials in a future post.

Visas

  • Business travellers need to ensure they have the right type of Visa. Apart from checking if you actually need a visa for the country you are travelling to, don’t be caught out by getting the wrong type. You might be tempted to cut corners (and costs) and get a tourist visa for a conference but in some countries, a conference requires a business visa.

Bookings (Flights, accommodation, transport)

  • Arrange these in advance wherever possible.
  • Check your company travel policy to see what it says about personnel all travelling on the same flight (e.g. you wouldn’t want your full board of directors on the same plane).

Passports

  • It is essential you have at least six months remaining on your passport pre-departure. Some countries won’t allow you to travel into their country without that and obviously, it can be a very long flight back home if you make that mistake.

Hotel

  • Check your company policy for hotel recommendations or criteria for hotels
  • Check the location of your proposed hotel from a security or risk perspective. e.g. choosing a hotel close to your meeting locations may also put you in a red-light district.
  • Scope out the security levels of your proposed hotel (lower cost hotels typically have lower security. Look in the Trip Advisor comments sections for comments from visitors about security in general.
  • See if you can book a room on the 3rd, 4th or 5th floors. Upper-level rooms may be great for getting a view but in the event of a fire, they are out of reach of fire department equipment. 1st and 2nd floors are easy pickings for thieves.
  • Ask for a room away from the fire escape. Thieves prefer to workrooms near fire escapes for a quick exit if needed.
  • Take a doorstop with you for added security (or a ‘door jammer’).

Emergency Services

  • Scope out the locations of police stations and hospitals before you leave (much easier than doing so in an emergency). Check if your corporate travel policy or your travel insurance policy has any details of these.
  • Identify if a hospital is appropriate for your needs. e.g. If you have a heart condition does it have a cardiac unit? Not all hospitals have emergency units.

Embassies and Consulates

  • Find out the details of the embassy or consulate nearest your destination and carry these details on you. Makes them easier to find when needed and helps others get in touch with those important to you if you are out of action.
  • Check your country’s official travel website for travel warnings and local details (see the list in our travel and security checklist pdf or infographic below).
  • If offered, register your travel with your government travel registry.

Immunisations

  • Check immunisation requirements well in advance of travelling. Some immunizations require a certain timeframe to be administered pre-departure and others may not be readily available.
  • Consider visiting a doctor who specialises in travel medicine.

Medications

  • If you’re on medication, take enough to cover your trip plus a week.

Pack a “Grab Bag”

  • Small, nondescript bag. Backpack preferably. Strong and preferably with double stitching. Large enough for a laptop.
  • Torch/Flashlight. Doesn’t need to be large. I carry and recommend a Surefire torch. Apart from the obvious, a bright torch can also be used to blind an attacker. Some torches can double as a phone charger.
  • Smoke hoods. Covers the head and face and filters smoky air. Keep one in the grab bag and one on the bedside table.
  • Permanent marker (Sharpie or similar). Handy to have. Can even use to write details on an injured person – name, vital signs, etc.
  • Individual/Immediate First Aid Kit – IFAK. Also, get basic training on how to use these items.
    • Disposable gloves
    • Shears (strong but small)
    • Chest seal (used for sucking chest wounds)
    • Olaes bandage or Israeli bandage
    • Tourniquet
    • Nasopharyngeal (nose hose)
    • Medical tape
  • Bottle of water
  • Mobile phone charger
  • Documentation – photocopies of passport, license, visa, etc
  • Cash. A small amount in local currency

Dummy Wallet

  • Carry a spare wallet or purse with a small amount of cash ($10-12) and some expired or dummy credit cards (can use this to hand over to thieves if necessary).

Burner Phone

  • Depending on your destination, a business traveller needs to consider carrying a cheap phone with minimal to protect your data on your smartphone (protects you from hackers or thieves).

Buisness Travel Insurance

  • Check your policy for inclusions before engaging in activities (e.g. are you covered for riding on a scooter/moped).
  • Check with HR to ensure the company policy is adequate for your destination.

Enter your details below to access the Business Travel and Security Checklist as a printable pdf.

Part 2 of the Business Travelers’ Essential Guide can be found here.

New Australian Airport Security Measures – What It Means for Travellers and Airport Workers Alike

Australian airport security is facing strong pressure to change from two different angles: the extensive terror plot this summer and the US’s tighter airport measures. The terror attempt in August, involving an elaborate explosives scheme, has stirred up debate over transportation security among Australian politicians and government officials. Malcolm Turnbull and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, issued a joint statement on the government’s plan to enhance Australian airport security.

The measures are focused on airport workers, such as luggage handlers, as the terror plot revolved around sneaking explosives into luggage. Currently, Australia’s airport workers and their belongings are not screened for explosives or dangerous items.

The new measures will take place at the airports of Australia’s major cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, Cairns, the Gold Coast, and Hobart). All airport staff (Baggage handlers, caterers, engineers, and maintenance staff) will face random testing for explosives. The efficacy of such efforts is questionable. These screenings are not regular and there is a possibility that they can be dodged.[1]

Passengers will be affected by other airport security measures in an effort to comply with tighter US security requirements. All US-bound flights will require passengers to undergo short security interviews. This ‘passenger vetting’ will help US-bound flights avoid an in-cabin ban on laptops.

Tighter Airport Security and Its Impact on Travellers and Workers

For airport workers, these new security measures are unlikely to significantly impact their daily lives, though this is subject to change as the security debate evolves. Airport security measures in Australia still fall far short of the rules and regulations US airport workers are required to undergo.[2]

It is travellers that will be especially impacted. The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development has said that new security measures will cause delays for travellers.[3]

US-bound travellers will face the greatest impact. To accommodate the short security interviews, airlines request passengers to arrive a full 3 hours before departure.[4] Additionally, conveniences provided by some airlines for frequent flyers will be scaled back.

For more information on Australian airport security, as well as travel safety, click here. Panoptic Solutions Risk Management team can assist with all your travel security concerns.

For information on general travel advice talk to our team at Panoptic Corporate Travel.

 

[1]https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/companies/new-airport-security-measures-for-workers-labelled-a-joke-20171022-gz5q3a.html

[2]https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/companies/new-airport-security-measures-for-workers-labelled-a-joke-20171022-gz5q3a.html

[3] http://travelsecure.infrastructure.gov.au/

[4] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/airlines-prepare-for-new-us-security-rules/news-story/b6817d3a6eac9681a1f7d9c3b0b4c0de

Terrorism in Southeast Asia

There is little question that the rise of IS has dramatically changed the security landscape in Southeast Asia. This is particularly interesting considering the diverse political and social landscapes in the region.  Nonetheless, the threat of terrorism in Southeast Asia is not new and continues to mutate and evolve.  Thus, authorities’ adaptability and innovation are critical to countering such an evolving threat.

In 2014, a formal IS wing for terrorism in Southeast Asia, known as Katiba Nusantara, was established. In addition to planning attacks, they drive recruitment, dissemination of radical ideology, and training for IS.  The organisation’s training ground is in Indonesia. One reason it is so dangerous at present is that as IS loses territory, Katiba Nusantara will manage the returnees, bringing instability to the region.  They will have gained military experience and will be more armed with radical ideology and propaganda tactics to foster the building of networks at home.

In the past two years, we’ve witnessed a string of terror attacks in the region. The IS-inspired attacks in Jakarta in January 2016 were not unlike those witnessed in Europe the same year with the target of a crowded shopping mall rhyming with the IS-affiliated attack on London’s Borough Market or Barcelona’s La Rambla.  Similarly, the 2016 IS-affiliated attack in the Philippines killed 14 and wounded 70 at a crowded market, prompting President Duterte to escalate security measures.[1]


[1] See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/isis-islamic-state-davao-ph…

The appeal for IS among the Southeast Asian Muslim community varies by country. For instance, in Malaysia and Singapore, religious and ideological elements are most important. In Malaysia, the UNMO-led political system has contributed to the growth of religious conservatism and seeks to derive its legitimacy from its perceived religious integrity.[1]

In Indonesia, on the other hand, religion has remained somewhat more moderate, despite the long presence of a radical fringe. Kinship networks and group rivalries are more important in driving IS recruitment. Additionally, Indonesia’s radical Islamic establishment, Jemaah Islamiya, which was responsible for previous terror attacks in the Country, has publicly denounced IS due to ideological differences.

Governance of the Sulu Sea is another critical security weakness in the Southeast Asian region. These lawless waters have facilitated the movement of militants and terrorists. Alongside this, the area has developed its own breed of a vibrant economy mainly reliant on human and arms trafficking.[2]

States are undoubtedly taking the threat seriously and investing considerable resources towards security.  Malaysia has arrested 250 terror suspects between 2013 and 2016[3]. Since the 2002 Bali Bombings, the Indonesian Government has grown its counterterrorism capabilities, in particular its preemptive security apparatus. The country’s terrorism laws have been amended to aid authorities’ enhancement of preemptive (rather than purely reactive) capabilities.

For more information on security matters in the APAC region, contact Panoptic Solutions. We tailor risk assessments, threat assessments, and travel advice to you, your family, or your company. Fill out our contact form or e-mail us at info@panopticsolutions.com.

Security for Australia’s Former Prime Ministers

The assault on Tony Abbot from a campaigner brings our attention to the question of security for former PMs in Australia. Currently, they are not provided with permanent executive protection/close personal protection, or security details. At least in this incident, it is clear that Tony Abbot was under-protected.  The intoxicated assailant could easily have had and used a weapon.  Though not in the PM’s office, former PMs remain highly political symbols. This is likely true even if they are not involved in the public political discourse, unlike Tony Abbot.

While this incident underscores the reality of the risks former PMs face, it is somewhat unclear if they should be provided with tax-payer-funded, permanent security details. The Australian Prime Minister’s office tends to change frequently which would make a lifetime, publicly-funded security a significant financial burden and may also make it less necessary, assuming shorter-tenure equates to less post-office risk.[1]

Executive Protection & Security for Former PMs

In the United States, all former US presidents and First Ladies receive the lifetime protection of the Secret Service, though significantly scaled-down from time in office. One of the main justifications for this expenditure is under national security grounds. Due to their knowledge of national security secrets (without CIA training) and highly symbolic nature, their kidnapping by a foreign government or non-state actor would undoubtedly be national security catastrophe.  The same could be true for Australia’s former PMs, though the risk calculus may differ.

In Canada, security for former PMs equates to a drastic reduction in protective details, regardless of if they have a particularly public life.  This can be scaled up when there is a threat. When leaving office, the duty is transferred from the Prime Minister Protection Detail to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Divisional VIP Protection.[2] The issue is somewhat complicated in Canada due to the failure of official security to fully protect former PM Jean Chrétien from threats on two separate occasions (including a protest pie thrown in his face).[3]

Within Australia, one of the main reasons permanent security for former PMs is not provided is due to a limited number of appropriately trained Close Personal Protection Federal Police and the large cost to the taxpayer of increasing this resource.

This may provide a role for private security contractors with specific military, law enforcement, or diplomatic security experience similar to those employed and contracted within Panoptic Solutions executive protection teams to take up the job.  The high cost of AFP personnel is likely due to their extremely high training requirements and the lack of private-sector competition to bring down the price of all associated costs.[4]

Similar to other countries, former PMs could be provided with a scaled-down security detail from a private security firm, both protecting them from threats like those faced by Tony Abbot, and likely costing a fraction of the tax-payer dollars of a permanent Close Protection AFP detail.

For further information about executive protection in Australia and Asia-Pacific, fill out the Panoptic Solutions contact form or email info@panopticsolutions.com

Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism

Crowded landmarks are a terror target for their symbolic power, with recent IS attacks making this disturbingly clear.  In light of this, Australian National Security has declared a strategy for tackling the threat to crowded places.  According to their announcement, the core of Australia’s new protective strategy is to improve the security of such places by fostering networks of information sharing and partnership among private and public sector stakeholders, generating a more sophisticated ecosystem of security.[1]  In this category of “crowded places” are sports stadia, transport infrastructure, shopping centres, pubs, clubs, hotels, places of worship, tourist attractions, movie theatres, and civic spaces.

According to this policy, owners and operators of crowded places will be able to join the Crowded Places Partnership which places them in a network with a broad spectrum of public authorities including counter-terrorism officials, police, local and national authorities, etc.  Owners and operators will receive expertise from authorities on strengthening security.  Additionally, the ongoing exchange of information related to threats is intended to increase the speed and flexibility of responses to threats.

To ensure maximum protective security, authorities recommend a system for what they call “layered security”, which means employing complementary security measures which reinforce each other and reduce the likelihood that any measure will fail.  Additionally, owners and operators are offered a number of protective security tools including a Crowded Places Self-Assessment Tool, Crowded Places Security Audit, Hostile Vehicle Mitigation Guidelines, Chemical Weapon Guidelines, and others.

Interestingly the Crowded Places Self Assessment Tool states “It is important to remember that this self-assessment needs to be conducted from the perspective of a would-be attacker; not from your perspective as to the current level of security you have at your location”. This view is in line with Panoptic Solutions Red Team Operations when conducting penetration and security testing of installations, organisations and workplaces.

Australian sports fans have already begun to experience tighter security at large sporting events.  Following the Manchester Area attack in May, the Adelaide Oval limited the number of bags allowed inside and subjected fans to metal detector searches.[2]  In the same month, Melbourne stadiums considered allowing only clear plastic bags inside.[3]

If the implementation of Australia’s new protective strategy for crowded places is successful, operators of large sporting events will be more flexible and fluid in enhancing security.  “Greater security” will not necessarily equal more airport-style security checks.  In its design, the strategy appears to maximise the enjoyment of crowded places while still ensuring much tighter security.  Australian National Security hopes that the integration of private security entities, such as the security administration at the Adelaide Oval, national security authorities, and other contracted security firms similar to Panoptic Solutions will generate this outcome.

 

References

“Adelaide Oval Increases Security in Wake of Manchester Attack”, (May 24, 2017), ABC. Retrieved from:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-24/adelaide-oval-increases-security-in-wake-of-manchester-attack/8555156

“Clear Bad Rule Considered for MCG and Melbourne Stadiums”, (May 24, 2017), Herald Sun. Retrieved from:
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/clear-bag-rule-and-bollards-co…

“Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism”, (2017), Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from:
https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Media-and-publications/Publications/…

Australia’s Recent Terror Arrests and What It Means for Travellers

Australia’s Close Call

The recently foiled terror plot in Sydney underscores the risk potential for travellers in Oceania. Australia has faced an increasing number of such threats in recent years.  Since September 2014, the nation’s terror threat level has been elevated, according to national security authorities.[1]

On Saturday, July 29th, Australian police defeated a plot to bring down an aeroplane, arresting 4 suspects in the Sydney suburbs.[2]  Though detailed information is still unfolding, the elaborate plot of the men now in custody involved the detonation of an improvised explosive on board the aircraft. Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin stated that this is believed to be Islamic-inspired terrorism.[3]  No information has been offered as to how this plot was discovered.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered some insight into the bigger picture of terror threats the nation faces.  “We face a range of terrorist threats, some of them are lone actors, who activate very quickly, with very little warning. On other occasions, you get quite elaborate conspiracies. This appears to be in that category.”[4]

Since 2014, Australian law enforcement has thwarted 15 terror plots in their advanced stages.[5] Of 31 counterterrorism police operations, 70 suspects have been charged.[6]  Despite a small number of sophisticated plots, the primary terror threat is believed to come from lone actors and small groups carrying out simple plots with low-cost weaponry.[7]

Implications for Travelers

Authorities have since enhanced security measures at airports and had previously recommended travellers to arrive more than 2 hours before their departure time for extra baggage searches and delays caused. At the time of the incident, Virgin Australia advised passengers to arrive 3 hours before departure for international flights. Enhanced security measures were in place in more than just the Sydney Airport. These recommendations were, however, revised as of 4 August. Travellers are advised to remain vigilant, however, to revert to previous time frames recommended by their airlines.

Travellers and those with a long-term interest in the region will want to keep in mind the uncertainty and risk that this incident underscores.  While the authorities can rightfully be credited for their skill in disrupting a sophisticated plot while it was still in planning stages in the Sydney suburbs, this threat is very much a wildcard among mostly unsophisticated terror plots. Moreover, even the highest authorities are candid about the risk and uncertainty.  In response to this attack, Andrew Colvin stated that “Terrorists are becoming very ingenious about ways to defeat our security mechanisms.”[8]  Those involved in the region will want to bear this uncertainty in mind when making their plans in the region. To discuss Travel Risk advice across the APAC region, contact Panoptic Solutions Risk Consultants for further information.

References

“Australian authorities arrest 4 in alleged airplane terrorist plot”, (2017, July 31), CNN. Retrieved from
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/29/asia/australia-airplane-terror-plot/in…

“Australian police foil ‘elaborate’ terrorist plot to detonate bomb on plane”, (2017, July 30), The Guardian. Retrieved from:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jul/30/australian-police…

“Four arrested in Australia as police thwart terrorist plot to bring down a plane”, (2017, July 30), The Telegraph.  Retrieved from:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/30/four-arrested-australia-polic…

“National Terrorism Threat Advisory System”, Australian Government. Retrieved from:
https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/securityandyourcommunity/pages/natio…

“The other ‘imminent’ terror attacks Australia narrowly escaped”, (2017, July 31st), news.com.au. Retrieved from:
http://www.news.com.au/national/crime/the-11-imminent-terror-attacks-aus…