Aboriginal leaders are talking about the possibility of violent demonstrations at this year's Olympic Games in Sydney, which begin Sept. 15. One activist told the British Broadcasting Corp. that the protests are "going to be very violent." The leader of Australia's main indigenous organization, although trying to calm matters, said, "It's not for me to say there will or won't be violence." For months, aboriginal leaders have planned peaceful demonstrations during the Games to dramatize their people's condition. But some were angered earlier this month by a report that the government considers estimates that 100,000 aboriginal children were taken from their families between 1910 and the 1970s--those known as the "stolen generation"--to be exaggerated.
Nepal: An increase in terrorist incidents, some directed at tourists, and a heightening of civil unrest have spurred the U.S. Embassy in Katmandu to issue an alert to Americans in the Himalayan country. In a departure from past incidents, Maoist insurgents have targeted tourists in three recent incidents, robbing a rafting party, a trekking group and a popular resort hotel in Pokhara. A coalition of leftist parties has scheduled nationwide strikes for May 23 and 31, with rallies planned for the evening of May 22. Past rallies have sometimes turned violent. Americans are advised to be careful traveling anywhere in Nepal, especially by road. The alert, effective until July 24, advises travelers to monitor local news and to check with the embassy for current security information.
Malaysia and the Philippines: Twenty-one people, 10 of them foreign tourists, were abducted by masked gunmen on a resort island last weekend and taken away in boats. At press time Wednesday, they were reported held on an island in the southern Philippines by captors who were demanding ransom. The hostages, who included French, Germans, South Africans and Finns, had been vacationing on tiny Sipadan Island, a premier diving spot off the northeastern tip of the island of Borneo. Two American tourists from Rochester, N.Y., managed to escape their captors, who are believed connected to the Abu Sayyaf group of Philippine rebels.
Earlier this month, the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, who have been holding a group of Filipino adults and schoolchildren hostage, threatened to kidnap or kill Americans in the Philippines if the United States rejected their demand for the release of three Islamic militants in U.S. jails. The Abu Sayyaf group operates mainly in remote areas of the southern Philippines. In an announcement effective until July 18, the U.S. Embassy in Manila urges Americans in the Philippines to be cautious.
Indonesia: The State Department has issued a comprehensive new status report on problems in Indonesia, effective until June 3, advising Americans to be careful throughout the country. Travelers are urged to avoid West Timor, where foreigners have come under attack; the island of Lombok, site of anti-Christian violence; and Aceh, where violence continues to occur. Violence has spread throughout the Molucca Islands, and any Americans there should depart immediately. Demonstrations on the island of Bali, near Lombok, have been infrequent and not directed at U.S. citizens.
Zimbabwe: After the seizures of white-owned farms, thousands of tourists have canceled reservations at Victoria Falls, and tourism at the site during the Easter weekend was only 70% of last year's figure. In an announcement effective until July 6, the State Department advises travelers to avoid occupied farms and to be aware that during the run-up to parliamentary elections in May or June, demonstrations may turn violent. Earlier this month, white Zimbabweans lined up in Harare, the capital, to reclaim their British citizenship after Britain announced contingency plans to take in more than 20,000 British passport holders if the ongoing assaults and arson attacks against them worsen. In the last two months, thousands of veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s war for independence from Britain have occupied hundreds of white-owned farms, seeking a redistribution of land taken under colonial rule. They claim to have the support of President Robert Mugabe.
The U.S. State Department offers recorded travel warnings and advisories at (202) 647-5225, Internet http://travel.state.gov.
Edward Wright is a former assistant foreign editor at The Times. His column appears monthly.