US cautionary advisory for Sabah stays for now, says ambassador

A water village squatter colony in Lahad Datu, Sabah. The US travel advisory is specifically for eastern Sabah while the rest of the country is categorised as Level 1. — Picture courtesy of Esscom
A water village squatter colony in Lahad Datu, Sabah. The US travel advisory is specifically for eastern Sabah while the rest of the country is categorised as Level 1. — Picture courtesy of Esscom

KOTA KINABALU, June 27 — The United States is maintaining its Level 2 travel advisory to eastern Sabah because of the area’s continued risk, said US ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdir.

She said that their priority was the security of American citizens and given the current circumstances, the advisory was specifically for eastern Sabah while the rest of the country was categorised as Level 1.

“Level 2 for a very specific area in Sabah. It was the same as last year but we only stripped off the ‘T’ and ‘C’ indicators, and changed it to ‘K’ indicator,” she said.

The ‘T’ is the indicator for for terrorism, ‘C’ for crimes and ‘K’ for kidnapping.

“We are aware of the geographic risks at eastern Sabah,” she said during a press conference here to promote bi lateral and cross cultural activities

Lakhdir said that Level 2 travel advisory — which was to exercise increased caution —  was still relatively low risk, among the bottom two, although a step higher than the national, Level 1 which was to exercise normal precautions.

The Level 3 tier advises Americans to reconsider travel while and Level 4 indicates “do not travel”.

"Our role in the US embassy is to prioritise the security of American citizens, we give them information and it is up for them to consider the factors and make their own minds,” said Lakhdir.

When asked whether the government would consider a review, she said the latest review was last year and there were no plans to review again until a major event occurs.

The state has been pushing for the removal or review of the travel advisory given the absence of tourist kidnapping incidents in recent years. The advisory is said to hinder tourists and also an insurance issue for those planning to travel here.

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