Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Lonely Planet travel warning irks Malaysia

Sabah's push to promote its "mountain high to ocean deep" tourism attractions may have hit a snag following a warning posted on the online version of popular travel guide Lonely Planet.

New Straits Times reports that under its guide for Malaysia, Lonely Planet has issued a posting titled "Travel Warning: Don't Go to eastern Sabah" due to the risk of being kidnapped by terrorists.

It describes the severity of the warning as a "high-level alert" as "the islands and coastal areas of eastern Sabah are considered very dangerous for foreigners, who are at high risk of being kidnapped by terrorist groups".

In an immediate reaction, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said he would issue a formal statement to explain that eastern Sabah is safe for visitors.

"This information is wrong and defies logic... that Lonely Planet would say that.

“I recently had a discussion with our Australian counterparts and they feel that Sabah is safe. There has been no case of kidnapping of foreigners since an incident eight years ago," he said.

Sabah came into the spotlight in April 2000 when 21 people, including foreign tourists, were kidnapped from Sipadan island by the Abu Sayyaf group, which spirited them to southern Philippines. They were released unharmed within several months.

In September the same year, three Malaysians were abducted from Pulau Pandanan by the same rebel group and were subsequently freed.

Following the second kidnapping, the Malaysian government stationed soldiers and policemen at strategic islands and coastal areas from Kudat in the north to Tawau in the south-east of the state.

Sabah's east coast, which is not too far from the Philippines and Indonesian waters, is known for islands that offer top quality diving and a chance to watch turtles lay their eggs.

It is also known for several cave systems which house ancient coffins, the Kinabatangan river which is a wildlife hotspot and the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.



Source : TravelMole
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