As new markets are opened around the world prudent companies are closely examining each country's political, criminal, and economic situation before doing business there
The following country risk analyses for Asia, the Former Soviet Union (FSU), and Europe were presented recently by members of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis at the ASIS 16th Annual Government/Industry Conference on Terrorism in Washington, D.C.
East Asia. "Without a doubt, [East Asia] is the safest region of the world," announced analyst James T. Dunne. Still, dangerous areas within the region exist. Economic collapse is the biggest story in East Asia and the Pacific, and the crisis "will almost surely lead to higher levels of civil unrest, at least in some countries," said Dunne. But overall, he observed, crime is more common than terrorism in East Asia and the Pacific. Cities with particularly severe crime problems include Manila, Philippines; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Port Moresby, New Guinea.
Indonesia. Of all the countries hit by the economic crisis, Indonesia is the place most likely to see civil unrest, Dunne said. Yet current civil unrest is sporadic, and U.S. citizens are not targeted. While brutal intertribal violence is taking place in the country's remote west, virtually no business travelers venture into that region. Another problem is corruption, which is rampant in the country.
Philippines. In the Philippines, the merging of terrorism and criminality, the resurgent assertiveness of Muslim radicals, and factionalism in the Communist party are all troubling signs that should not be ignored by corporate security. The island group is still the land of clever, devious terrorist weaponry, most recently the "Pill Box Bomb" - a grenade-like bomb stuffed with gunpowder and shrapnel.
Cambodia. Cambodia is "an island of security problems in a sea of relative tranquillity," said Dunne. Violence has been mounting there, as evidenced by the Khmer Rouge's unseating of Pol Pot last year. While none of last year's violence targeted Americans, "much of it was too close for comfort," Dunne said.
Thailand. In Thailand, by contrast, foreign travelers should beware of overtures by seemingly friendly strangers in bars. Travelers are often drugged and robbed by these persons, and some of them are killed.
North Korea. North Korea has a legacy of being a nuclear threat, a sponsor of terrorism, and a country racked by shortages. But the biggest issues today concern the political leadership and economic conditions. The overriding fear, Dunne said, is that the country will collapse and create a massive refugee problem. "But for the immediate future," he said, "the status quo should prevail."
China. A growing threat, but less of a risk, is China. Crime is not epidemic against foreigners, but it is on the rise. Common business crimes include product piracy, industrial espionage, and high-tech counterfeiting.
Westerners should note that Chinese courts commonly confiscate passports when a dispute arises between a foreign business and a Chinese entity. In all cases to date, however, passports were eventually returned.
Street crime is also on the increase. One ploy involves a Chinese woman approaching a foreign man at a hotel bar and accompanying him to his room. Accomplices dressed as police come to the door, and the woman claims she was sexually harassed. They then shake down the victim for money.
Separatism is also bubbling just under the surface in China, as evidenced by a March 1997 bombing of a bus in Beijing during rush hour by Uighurs (Sunni Muslims in the Xinjiang region oppressed by the Chinese). The incident "shattered the notion that China's capital was insulated from factions seething far away," Dunne said.
Dunne also warned that China is likely to witness more popular uprisings as "economic aspirations collide with reality." …