Monthly Travel Risk Summary Report

Welcome to April,

Thank you for your patience as this month's report is released much later than we would have like and intended!

Ares Risk Management is here to help and support the travelling business community. We are here to provide you with the intelligence and threat trends which will keep you and your personnel safe while travelling – especially if your business takes you to some of the worlds at risk, crisis or conflict zones.

We’d like to remind you that when travelling abroad, even to countries which are considered “safe”, we live in a dangerous world. While conflict or terror attacks might not be prevalent in the country or city you are visiting, all countries and cities suffer from varying types and levels of crime. Be aware of the types of crime you might encounter.

We would also like to remind you that the weather may disrupt your travel plans. We also advise that you consider health issues and ensure that you are immunised (if need be) before travelling.

It is also worth noting that some over the counter and prescription medications which a legal and freely accessible in the UK and Europe might be considered contraband in other countries so please be sure that you check what medications are allowed and which are considered contraband.

If you are travelling at any time this year and would like a more detailed country and regional risk assessment, focused on your travel plans and itinerary before deciding whether you need the services of an International Executive Close Protection Team or not, please do not hesitate to contact us at Ares Risk Management.

~ SETTING THE SCENE FOR APRIL  ~

As SARS-COV-2 (Corona Virus) loosens its grip on the world and with what currently seems like a growing success of the vaccination program in the UK and other parts of the world. Lockdowns are slowly but surely being lifted and restrictions on travel is also being eased.

We are not quite out of the woods yet, however as advised last month; the UK Government has announced that UK citizens can take domestic holidays from the 12th of April while international travel for holidays will be allowed after May 15th, 2021.

Debate surrounding the so-called Vaccine Passport is heating up – however it is worth noting that seasoned travellers have had to provide proof of valid and up-to-date vaccinations for several communicable diseases for decades. For example, if you have ever travelled to India you will have needed the following vaccinations:  hepatitis Ahepatitis Btyphoidcholerayellow feverJapanese encephalitisrabiespolio, and tetanus. Therefore, being able to provide proof that you have been vaccinated for SARS-COV-2 in the greater scheme of things is not such a big deal.

When it becomes available a Covid health certificate should provide a simple yet secure system that can help travellers navigate through a tangle of restrictions as smoothly as possible while protecting privacy. Any such document is likely to include the name and date of birth of the traveller, the date of vaccinations and the type and batch used, or details about a recent test or recovery.

So while in theory you may be able to travel abroad after the 15th of May, until internationally recognised standards have been set, leisure travel abroad could still be a bit of a problem, as countries and airline carriers pilot digital and hard-copy certification systems. What is clear is that anyone wishing to travel for It is possible that anyone travelling overseas in 2021 will need to have vaccination certification to do so. Speak to your Travel Management Company to find out which countries are allowing visitors to enter without restriction, which countries continue to impose restrictions and quarantines and those that will let you in if you have a valid Covid Vaccination/Health Certificate.

The latest news on the Coronavirus can be found here:

  1. Government Travel Advice: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
  2. UK Government – Coronavirus Advice: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
  3. NHS Coronavirus Advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Weather Hazards & Natural Disasters

EARTHQUAKES

During the past 21-days there have been in excess of 15 earthquakes, with the potential to cause damage to infrastructure and harm to people – overall inin the past 2-weeks alone there have been 480 earthquakes recorded with magnitudes ranging from 1.1 to 6, the map below gives a visualisation of the spread of the quakes felt so far this month, and the colour code gives an indication of when the quake occurred.

White = 14-days ago, Yellow = 7 ago, Orange = Past 48 Hours, Red = Past 24 Hours, Purple = today.
The bigger the circle – the larger the magnitude.

April 2021 - Earthquake Map

Japan
Between the 10st April and today there have been over 50 earthquakes recorded in Japan with Magnitudes ranging from 3.5 to 5.7, which ranged from mild to moderate shaking, and a handful of tsunami alerts were issued which were later cancelled. Of all the reported quakes in Japan so far this month the quake of the 17th April has been the most sever, and has left at least 41 people have been killed and at least 1,500 injured in the second earthquake to hit Japan in two days. The earthquake had a powerful 7.3 magnitude which was felt across the Kumamoto region on the southwestern island of Kyushu at 1.25am on Saturday local time, leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity or water. The quake struck at a depth of 12 kilometres and followed a magnitude 6.2 earthquake, at a depth of 11 kilometres, which hit on Thursday 15th April in the same region. Numerous building collapsed and the Kumamoto Prefectural official Tomoyuki Tanaka said the death toll was expected to climb and at least 180 of the people injured were in serious condition. Around 90,000 people have been displaced and some are being sheltered in schools and official buildings.

Islamic Republic of Iran
A magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook southwestern Iran along the Persian Gulf on Sunday, followed by over a dozen aftershocks, state TV reported.

At least five people were injured, Iran‘s state-run IRNA news agency reported.

State TV shared mobile phone pictures of cracked and collapsed walls in the area of the port city of Bandar Genaveh, the quakes’ epicentre. People rushed into the streets of the city as the quakes struck, IRNA said. State officials say that the Nuclear power facility near the port city of Bandar Genaveh was not damaged; further reports state that some 6 villages in Genaveh city have suffered 20 to 30 percent damage due to the earthquake.

Taiwan
18th April -
A 5.8 magnitude earthquake quickly followed by another at 6.2 struck eastern Taiwan, the island’s weather bureau said, with no reports of damage. The first quake, which shook buildings in the capital Taipei, had a depth of 15km with its epicentre in Hualien county on Taiwan’s sparsely populated and mountainous eastern coast, the bureau said. The second quake, three minutes after the first one, had a depth of 14km, also with its epicentre in Hualien, it said, adding there were likely to be aftershocks. Taiwan media said guests at hotels in Hualien city rushed out into the streets after the quakes. Hualien is a popular tourist destination. The transport ministry said operations on the island’s high-speed rail line, which runs on Taiwan’s western coast, were unaffected.

Indonesia
19th April 2021 -  An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 struck in the Nias region of Indonesia, there have been no immediate reports of casualties following the quake.

17th April 2021 - A 5.5-magnitude earthquake struck several areas in Aceh Besar District, Aceh Province, on Saturday, at around 8:04 a.m. local time.  No immediate reports were received of casualties following the earthquake that did not trigger a tsunami,

10th April 2021 - At least eight people were killed after a 6.0 magnitude quake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s main Java island on Saturday, as the country reels from a cyclone disaster. The afternoon quake hit offshore about 45 kilometres south-west of Malang city in East Java, damaging homes as well as schools, government offices and mosques across the region. It did not trigger a tsunami. Disaster agency spokesman Raditya Jati said eight people had died and a number of others had been injured.

Papua New Guinea
21st April 2021 - A shallow magnitude 5.0 earthquake was reported early afternoon near Mendi, Mendi-Munihu District, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea.
According to Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysical Agency, the quake hit on Wednesday 21 April 2021 at 2:47 pm local time at a shallow depth of 10 km. Shallow earthquakes are felt more strongly than deeper ones as they are closer to the surface. As this quake has only occurred while writing this report – it is too early to know if there have been any casualties or damage to buildings and infrastructure.

 CYCLONES, HURRICANES & TYPHOONS

The Hurricane Season across the Caribbean/ Bahamas/Florida and Carolina’s/Mexico and Northern South American countries spans from the 1st June through to the end of November annually.

The Typhoon Season in Japan and Western Pacific spans from July to October.

Cyclone Season – South Pacific runs annually from November to  April.

21st April 2021 - Philippians
There has been little change to previous reports as Cyclone Surigae remains a Category 4-equivalent typhoon, buzzing the east coast of Luzon in the Philippines and forecast to curve east, passing more than 350 miles southeast of Okinawa late Friday 23rd April in the afternoon. At 9 a.m. (today 21st April), Surigae was 339 miles northeast of Manila, moving northwest at 6 mph, still packing 138-mph sustained winds and 167 miles at centre.

Tropical Cyclone Surigae, severe weather warnings remain raised for eastern portions of Luzon, according to the national weather authority PAGASA. Surigae (named Bising by PASASA) remains a significant rain event; and populations are being warned to continue to be vigilant of low-level flooding and possible landslides.

21st April 2021 - Seychelles, Tanzania
A category 1 cyclone has been developing of the coast, and is slowly strengthening as is heads towards Tanzania – currently wind speeds are being recorded at 65 m/hr, however they are expected to strengthen to around 80 m/hr or higher as the cyclone makes landfall in Tanzania in the coming days. As with all cyclones, they all bring heavy rains.

4th – 12th April 2021 - Australia
There are warnings of a “rare and dangerous” weather event as two cyclones simultaneously bear down on WA with the effects felt as far south as Perth.

The pair of cyclones hovering off the Western Australian coast are intensifying and are expected to deliver “rare and dangerous weather’ across the weekend. Locals and residents along a 1000km stretch of coast have been advised to “prepare now” as tropical cyclones Seroja, which has already caused destruction and deaths to parts of East Timor and Indonesia, and Odette edge closer to land. Wind gusts of up to 150 km/h could push inland and rain will come “hard and fast,” the Bureau of Meteorology has warned.

Seroja could be the most southerly cyclone to make landfall in two decades. That could lead to hectic weather associated with the system as far south as Perth and the Meteorological Society are making it clear that the impact from these cyclones will be felt in the next 2- days (13th & 14th April).  The pair are expected to begin interacting with one another on Saturday in what is knows as the Fujiwhara Effect. Odette is expected to pack a punch during its brief life bringing gale force winds and rain to Exmouth on Saturday afternoon, while Seroja is expected to bring dangerous weather conditions to the west coast during Sunday or Monday … this is a rare event for people on the west coast of Western Australia with potential impacts in the area between Coral Bay and Jurien Bay, including Carnarvon, Denham, Kalbarri and Geraldton.

FLOODING, LANDSLIDES, MUDSLIDES

Columbia
19th April 2021 - Flash floods caused severe damage in the municipality of El Carmen de Bolivar in the department of Bolivar. Colombia Civil Defence reports that around 900 homes were damaged, affecting 3,274 people, with damage assessments ongoing. Local media reported the numbers affected as much higher, with as many as 4,000 families thought to have been severely affected. The municipality declared a public calamity.

Vietnam
17th April - Flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy rains swept parts of Lao Cai Province, northern Vietnam. 36 homes were damaged, 3 people died. 1 home was also damaged in Ha Giang.

Australia
It is expected that in the aftermath of Cyclones Odette and Seroja, that the 1000 mile stretch of coast which is being impacted by these cyclones, are likely to experience some degree of flooding due to the exceptional heavy rains, that are associated with these cyclones.

FOREST FIRE DANGERS

Wild fires have rages across many parts of the world this month and include: Uzbekistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laos, Cuba, The Russian Federation, Mongolia, Myanmar, Australia and Mexico in addition to the fires reported below.

Nepal
Nepal has been battling its worst forest fires in years, officials said, with smoke wafting across its mountains and souring the air as it settles into the bowl that holds the capital city of Kathmandu. Five people have died so far trying to put out the fires that have been raging since January. Wildfires were burning in at least 60 places across 22 of Nepal’s 77 administrative districts. Details on losses from the fires are still being assessed. What is clear is that this has been the worst fire season by far since 2012, when the government started keeping records. Forest fires are common in Nepal between January and May due to the dry season; however the number of fires this year is 15 time greater than the number of fires in the 2020 season.

India
In India’s Uttarakhand state, forest fires have been burning since October 2020, killing four people, according to the state government. In April alone, there have been 657 incidents of forest fires in Uttarakhand, a bulk of them in the state’s Garhwal region near Nepal.

China
The risk of Forest Fires in China this April is high according to China’s Ministry of Emergency Management and National Disaster Reduction Commission. The temperature in most parts of the country is close to the same period of normal or higher in April, in the north east and west of Beijing, north and west of Hebei, east of Shanxi, east and north of Inner Mongolia, west and southeast of Liaoning, central Jilin, east and north of Heilongjiang, south of Fujian, Forest fire risk levels are higher in southwestern Jiangxi, eastern Shandong, southern Hunan, most of Guangdong, eastern and western Guangxi, southern Sichuan, western Guizhou, and central and northern Yunnan.

VOLCANOES

Soufriere, St. Vincent – 9th April to present
On 9 April 2021 there was an explosive eruption, and the volcano "continued to erupt explosively" over the following days, with pyroclastic flows. The activity pattern of the ongoing eruption is comparable to that of the event that occurred in 1902. The volcano reawakened after a dormant phase in December 2020 and has been active with effusive and explosive eruptions which continue to date – people living in the foothill and surrounding areas have been evacuated. Ash and sulphur di-oxide emission have been a nuisance for healthy people, however for people with respiratory disease, the emissions have been a significate health risk. Barbados, located about 120 mi (190 km) east of Saint Vincent, had also been affected by the ash; and there are grave concerns that crops will be lost, and livestock affected. With St. Vincent in a state of emergence, the UK and other nations have stepped in with offers of assistance.

Mt. Etna,  Italy – 9th – present.
Mt Etna has been in a heightened state of activity since 16th February 2021. In the past 3.5 days since the last sudden explosions from the New SE crater, are increasingly pointing towards a new lava fountaining episode in the next hours (or even earlier). Accompanied by rising tremors, intense strombolian activity has started at the New SE crater. As well, it would be more or less the same average interval Etna since the last episode as between the 200 previous ones, this would mean that the amazingly regular cyclic eruptive behaviour continues. Mount Etna is expected to rumble on for several more months before returning to a more dormant state!

Disease Alert

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
The Corona Virus (aka Covid-19, and SARS-Cov-2) continues to plague the world affecting not only health but national and global economies … whereas in the early summer of 2020, it seemed like the world was making some headway in reducing the rates of infection and subsequent deaths – November saw the beginning of spikes in infection and death rates. Since the beginning of 2021, three new variant strains of Covid-19 have been identified. All three strains are considered to be more contagious than the original Covid virus, and there is speculation that these strains might be marginally more deadly than the original virus. Meanwhile the vaccine roll-out in the UK and other parts of the world is progressing well and the pharmaceutical companies which make the vaccines believe that the current Covid vaccines will help to protect against the new strains.  Brazil and India have in the course of April been recording the highest death and infection rates globally.

 

CHOLERA OUTBREAK: Nigeria | Cameroon | Ethiopia | Kenya | Tanzania| Zambia | Mozambique | India | Yemen | Burundi
DENGUE FEVER OUTBREAK: Honduras | Maldives | Thailand | Cambodia | Laos | Malaysia | Nepal | Vietnam | Sri Lanka | Bangladesh | Philippines
EBOLA HEMORRHAGIC FEVER OUTBREAK: Rwanda | South Sudan | Burundi | Uganda | South Africa
LASSA FEVER OUTBREAK: Nigeria | Liberia | Sierra Leone | Guinea | Honduras
MALARIA EPIDEMIC: Burundi | Togo
MEASLES OUTBREAK:  Democratic Republic of Congo | South Sudan | Madagascar | Nigeria| South America | Ukraine | Philippines | UK
POLIO OUTBREAK: Afghanistan | Cameroon | Democratic Republic of Congo | Ethiopia | Islamic Republic of Iran | Mozambique | Niger | Nigeria | Pakistan | Papua New Guinea |Somalia | Philippines

Civil Unrest

The Civil Unrest Index as produced by Maplecroft remain largely unchanged, although the list of events which have occurred during early April, would indicate that overall things have quietened down a little bit. The analysis of the data continues to suggest 75 countries worldwide will be particularly vulnerable to increased incidents of social unrest including some 34 European Countries.

One of the primary triggers as previously stated has been the impact of Sars-Cov-2, which includes over 2.6 million dead and 117 million infected. No country in the world has remained untouched by Sars-COV-2. One year on from the declaration of the pandemic by the World Health Organization, evidence shows that crisis-affected countries have been especially hard-hit by the secondary impacts of the crisis, including rising poverty rates, a rise in domestic and other forms of violence and an erosion of trust between citizens and state; corruption of the electoral process, censorship and a decline in freedom of speech; yet it is to say that the secondary impacts as described by the WHO, are not exclusive to crisis affected countries – impoverished communities in the developed countries have also been hard-hit!

Europe UKAdvance Warning – Brexit Remainers are planning 5-days of protest across 10 UK cities in June 2021 to try and force the government to abandon Brexit and force the UK back into the EU. The all out Remainers protest is scheduled to start on 23 June 2021 to coincide with the 5th Anniversary of the Brexit Referendum.

IRELAND - They were scenes we thought had been consigned to a darker history. Mass rioting in the streets of Belfast, Newtownabbey, Carrickfergus, Ballymena, Coleraine and Londonderry; petrol bombs and missiles being thrown at police and others; hijacked and burned vehicles; a city skyline tinged with smoke and flames. Furniture was set alight in the middle of a Belfast street.

During the early part of April, and in large part due to Brexit, Northern Ireland has descended into mass rioting on a par with the rioting associated with the Troubles, yet most of the perpetrators of this latest surge of violence weren’t born then or even when “peace” came, courtesy of the Good Friday Agreement, 23 years ago.

The vicious rioting over the last few weeks is the Protestant/loyalist community’s response to the detested Northern Ireland Protocol — which has introduced an economic border between NI and Great Britain, and raised fears of an ultimate reunification of Ireland.

ITALY - On the streets of Rome, frustrations with pandemic curbs boiled over this week as desperate protesters, many of them restaurant owners and small-business owners, complained that restrictions and repeated lockdowns aimed at suppressing the transmission of the coronavirus are ruining them.

ROMANIA - Marchers took to the streets Saturday 17th April,  in the Romanian capital of Bucharest to protest restrictive measures to fight the spread of COVID-19 even as new daily infections.

USA MINNEAPOLIS, PORTLAND, IOWA – Protests, demonstrations and riots continue to spring up across the USA – Portland, Oregon being one of the worst affected US cities where riots have broken out on consecutive nights in this past week (Starting on Friday 16th April).

The underlying cause of the riots in Portland, Oregon, was sparked by the police shooting of a white man, on Friday (16th April) and vigils and demonstrations already planned for the night in the name of people killed in police shootings nationwide. Saturday police they arrested four people after declaring a riot Friday night when protesters smashed windows, burglarized businesses and set multiple fires during demonstrations. Police said they dispersed the crowd so firefighting crews could douse fires before they spread in extreme fire hazard conditions.

Australia (10th April) Hundreds have rallied in cities across Australia against the deaths of aboriginal people in prisons and police custody. The government admitted that indigenous inmates are over-represented in the justice system.

Protests and marches took place in cities, including Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday, with more rallies expected in Adelaide and Perth on Thursday. People held ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs and placards with ‘Stop Black Deaths in Custody.’

The demonstrations mark the 30th anniversary of a seminal government report on aboriginal deaths in police custody. Activists argue that little has been done since then to advance the protection of indigenous people, as more than 470 of them died in detention in the last three decades, according to local media.

ASIA/MIDDLE EAST PAKISTAN: At least seven Pakistan police officers and special rangers were taken hostage Sunday (April 18) by supporters of a radical Islamist party, officials said, after days of violent anti-France protests. Rioting has rocked the country since Monday, when the leader of the now-banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was detained in the second biggest city Lahore after calling for the expulsion of the French ambassador. The protests have paralysed cities and led to the deaths of six policemen, prompting the French embassy to recommend all its nationals temporarily leave the country.
SOUTH AMERICA CUBA: A coalition of Latin American anti-communist activists, including Cuban dissidents who suffer regular repression on the island, organized a multi-continental set of peaceful assemblies Thursday calling for the freedom of 47 pro-democracy activists arrested in Hong Kong for allegedly violating an illegal “national security” law. Pro-democracy voices in Cuba, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, the United States, Uruguay, and Mexico have vowed to join the campaign, which organizers have branded #Free47 in honor of those imprisoned.
  In another report by Verisk Maplecroft, it has been predicted that up to 40% of countries around the world will experience civil unrest in 2021, with 75 countries being vulnerable to flashpoints.

Conflict Risk Alert

For the first time in over 4-years there are no new conflict risk alerts to speak of this month. While there has been rises in civil unrest across many nations with the risk of violent demonstration and violent crime continue to be prevalent across Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world; a lull in hostilities despite the riots which have been mentioned in the above section “Civil Unrest”, this is a spot of good news!

Deteriorating situations

Covid-19 has had a massive effect on countries in Africa and South America. Over the past 12-months, global data has revealed that poor people are at greater risk of Covid-19 than those from more affluent neighbourhoods /countries. This has been a particularly hard-blow to many impoverished 3rd-world countries. Covid-19 has served to underscore inequality at all levels within the Maslow Hierarchy globally. This has led to violent demonstration and the death of protests in some regions, which only served to inflame the already volatile situations.

With travel restrictions slowly easing – and variations on what additional proof of COVID vaccination travellers may have to provide, before they travel, it continues to be unlikely that you will be able to travel to the world’s conflict zones, which in turn will cause problems in these countries as humanitarian aid dries up.

When the ability to travel to countries on the cusp of or grip of war, we seriously recommend that you request a detailed country and regional risk assessment, as well as engaging the services of professional and experienced Hostile Close Protection Operators and where necessary the use of armoured vehicles.

NIGER DELTA Nigeria has an urgent insecurity problem. News from the country often emphasizes insecurity related to Islamic insurgents in Northern Nigeria, organized armed banditry involving Fulani herdsmen, farmer-herder conflicts, kidnapping and armed robbery. Insecurity has long been a problem in the country's oil rich Niger Delta region too. Research conducted in six states of the Niger Delta region: Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo and Rivers State. It showed that each state had unique and crosscutting forms of insecurity. These include cultism, piracy, land struggles, election violence and gangs. They are driven by issues like drug abuse, poverty, unemployment, and environmental pollution. In all states across the Niger Delta, there are conflicts within and between communities. These conflicts are mainly driven by contentions over land and struggles over leadership. Local power struggles have been responsible for loss of lives and property in rural communities.

Specific to the violence this month has been jihadist activity which has claimed the lives of 200 people while authorities foiled a coup against Niger’s President-elect Mohamed Bazoum’s inauguration on 2 April.

MOZAMBIQUE Almost one million people face severe hunger in northern Mozambique, where hundreds of thousands have fled Islamist militant attacks. Islamic State-linked insurgents last month attacked Palma, a town in Cabo Delgado province next to gas projects under development by companies including Total and Exxon. People there have little access to food, no protection and gather in their hundreds at Total's site every day desperate for evacuation, a witness reported. Total pulled its staff from the site due to nearby insurgent activity on April 2. Authorities are still working to identify 12 beheaded bodies found in Palma after the March attack, which both police and army officials said were believed to be foreigners. In the March attack, Mozambique’s military have reported that a significant number of fighters were killed. (No exact numbers have so far been provided). There have also been reports of the recruitment of children as soldiers by Islamists terrorising northern Mozambique which highlights the depth of the crisis.
SENEGAL Senegal has often been considered one of the most stable countries of the African continent. The recent events reveal its democracy’s fragility. At the beginning of March, Senegal was rocked by the most violent protests of its recent history. The demonstrations spread spontaneously throughout the country after the police arrested Ousmane Sonko, a member of parliament and prominent opposition leader. Accused of rape by a 20-year-old masseuse a month earlier, Sonko was arrested and charged with “disturbing public order” as he was headed to court to respond to the rape allegations. Because of the protests, he was released less than a week after his arrest, under judicial supervision. Security forces responded to the popular unrest by firing live bullets at opposition supporters, leaving hundreds injured and ten dead. Various movements have sponsor three days of prayer and reconciliation after bloody riots last month
TAIWAN STRAIT A senior Taiwanese official warned Wednesday (14 April) that the self-ruled island will fight to “the very last day” in a conflict with China, which has increased its military activities nearby.  Chinese military sent an aircraft carrier group led by the Liaoning to drill in waters near Taiwan on Monday (12th April) to strengthen the Chinese navy’s “capability to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. The spokesman added that such exercises will continue and happen regularly. Also on Monday, 10 Chinese military aircraft, including four J-10 and four J-16 fighter jets, a Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and a KJ-500 early warning plane, entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. Commenting on Monday’s aerial incursions and carrier drill, Shi Hong, the executive chief editor of the Chinese magazine Shipborne Weapons, told the Chinese state-affiliated Global Times that the “the exercise showed that the [People’s Liberation Army] is capable of surrounding the island of Taiwan.”

In response, Taiwan has said they if they have to fight a war with China, they will, and have subsequently made plans to mobilize temple and church staff as part of the island's reserve force in its latest reorganization centred on a future war effort amid escalating military intimidation by China.

During a hearing in Taiwan's legislature on Monday, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-Cheng told lawmakers that policy planners hope to expand the country's reservists by integrating volunteers from local Buddhist and Taoist temples. He made the comments while defending the government's plan to establish a comprehensive new reserve mobilization agency, which will oversee the continued reform of Taiwan's reserve force—often described as insufficient in number and inadequately trained. A widening of the current call-up pool, which only includes volunteer police and firefighters, will require amendments to the country's Civil Defence Act. Chu Sen-tsuen, an official with the ministry's mobilization office, explained that the latest plans were a response to "the increased enemy threat faced by Taiwan."

BANGLADESH Bangladesh’s Islamist Challenge Intensifies with the violent anti-Modi protests were just the latest sign that the government’s outreach to Islamist groups has backfired.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has promised the “strongest possible action” against Islamist radicals responsible for violent protests over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country. Fourteen supporters of the radical Hefazat-e-Islam group were killed in police shootings across the country as Hasina’s government stood by its decision to invite Modi as guest of honour for celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence on March 26.

This comes off the back of thousands of radicalised Islamists attacking Hindu villages in mid-March and vandalising some 80 homes, on the 18th March.

MAYANMAR The ongoing repression of protests in Myanmar could lead to a full blown conflict, as the military in Myanmar continue with the commission of grave human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity.

In the wake of yet another weekend (10th & 11th April) of “coordinated bloodshed” in Myanmar, including the reported killing of at least 82 people in Bago, where, according to credible reports, the country’s military, Tatmadaw, opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades, fragmentation grenades and mortars.

The military seems intent on intensifying its pitiless policy of violence against the people of Myanmar, using military-grade and indiscriminate weaponry.

Security forces also reportedly prevented medical personnel from helping the wounded, as well as charging relatives a “fine” of roughly $90 to claim the bodies of those who were killed, according to the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR), which added that some individuals are now resorting to the use of makeshift or primitive weapons in self-defence.

UKRAINE The war between Russia and the Ukraine continues unabated with reports that Russian hybrid forces have lunched at least multiple attacks per day in the eastern Ukraine. It’s been reported that the type of weaponry used by the Russians against the Ukraine forces include 120mm and 82 mm mortars, anti-tank grenades and anti-tank rockets, in addition to small arms fire.

April has seen a large-scale Russian troop build-up of Russian troops both on land and sea on Ukraine’s doorstep, and the view is spreading among officials and wide swathes of the Ukrainian public that Moscow is signalling more bluntly than ever before that it is prepared to openly enter the conflict.

Many Ukrainian military officials and volunteer fighters say that they still find it unlikely that Russia will openly invade Ukraine, and that they do not see evidence of an imminent offensive among the gathered Russian forces. But they speculate over other possibilities, including Russia’s possible recognition or annexation of the separatist-held territories in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainians are awaiting President Vladimir V. Putin’s annual state-of-the-nation address to Russia on Wednesday, (21 April) an affair often rife with geopolitical signalling, for clues about what comes next.

BRAZIL Brazil’s political atmosphere is unstable. President Jair Bolsonaro’s sudden firing of his defence minister was rapidly followed by the resignation of the commanders of the Brazilian army, navy and air force – Gen Edson Leal Pujol, Adm Ilques Barbosa and Lt-Brig Antônio Carlos Bermudez from their posts in a historic move not seen since 1977 during the country’s military dictatorship. This has unleashed an unprecedented military and political crisis in Brazil.

57 years after that terrible historical event, the Brazilian working class once again confronts imminent dictatorial threats and the re-emergence of the military at the centre of political power, and a significant threat that history could repeat itself, and spark a deadly civil conflict.

President Bolsonaro’s efforts to consolidate authoritarian rule, which he has advanced since assuming the presidency, have escalated sharply since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Brazil has now passed the grim milestone of 350,000 COVID-19 deaths, and the pandemic remains absolutely out of control. Each week the country breaks new terrible records, with the daily death toll rising above 4,100 twice in the last week.

An unprecedented social crisis is ravaging working class - Unemployment has reached record levels, and tens of millions of Brazilians have been thrown into poverty since the pandemic began. Recent studies indicate that half of Brazil’s population is suffering from food insecurity. Brazil finds itself very much on the brink or crisis!

PARAGUAY With the growing discontent and protests in March, at Paraguay’s governments’ difficulty in securing Covid Vaccines, and despite the government of Taiwan having built thousands of homes for the poor, upgraded the health care system, awarded hundreds of scholarships, and helped fund a futuristic Congress building; the alliance between Paraguay and Taiwan is facing an existential threat as Paraguay’s quest for Covid-19 vaccines becomes increasingly desperate.

Paraguayan officials across the political spectrum say the time has come to consider dumping Taiwan, which doesn’t export vaccines, to establish diplomatic ties with China, which does. Beijing’s one-China principle forces countries to choose between having full diplomatic relations with China or Taiwan, an island that it regards as Chinese territory. In recent years, three countries in Latin America severed ties with Taiwan after secret talks with Beijing. All three were early recipients of Chinese vaccines.

If you are travelling at any time this year and would like a more detailed country and regional risk assessment, before deciding whether you need the services of an International Executive Close Protection Team or not, please do not hesitate to contact us at Ares Risk Management.

Finally, we’d like to wish you a safe and COVID-19 free April

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