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Here Are The Risks Expats Face In Southeast Asia

August 19, 2018

The Western expatriate toiling away in some exotic capital is a stereotype that has long been deprived of nuance. Rather than view them as professionals contributing to national economies, the expat is too often conjured as a privileged white man (as if there aren’t women expats) living inside a near impenetrable bubble. There’s some truth to this characterization, but also underlying falsehood.

Perhaps to a far greater degree than a local professional, the expat does live at risk from some very grave threats. The “how” and “why” of these menaces might be easy to ascertain but the awful truth is the baggage that goes with being an expat is a burden as well. For a boutique security firm like Adsum Risk Consulting (ARC) the worst of the worst an expat has to deal with includes…


One of the biggest misconceptions about expats is their money. While it’s not surprising to learn they’re often paid far above the average wage for a local employee, this doesn’t mean they’re swimming in wealth. But local perceptions–and yes, prejudices–often taint the expat as an easy mark who can be inconvenienced until they give up money.

There isn’t a specific threshold on how secure an expat is in any local business environment. It helps to prepare, though, and to have the instincts for avoiding charlatans, creeps, scammers, swindlers, and a dazzling variety of sinister scum. In short, do homework. Do due diligence.


But one insidious activity can ruin the career of foreign professionals who perform critical roles for large organizations. Fraud is a cancerous phenomenon that thrives in the white collar world, of all places. For a business leader who finds evidence of anomalous transactions in their company the worst part about fraud is how insiders are often the perpetrators. So much for trust!

Indeed, fraud is so widespread in every profession it’s almost hard to mitigate its destructive effects. Expats are especially vulnerable to fraud because their deficit in local knowledge puts them at a huge disadvantage against seasoned criminals. It’s quite demoralizing for any professional, even with decades of experience behind them, to be scammed by a congenial nobody who just materialized out of nowhere.


While expats can be coerced and manipulated to surrender their money, they can also get killed for it. The cautionary tale of Robert Hall and John Ridsdel serves as a grim reminder that in Asia, experience can count for little. Despite having spent decades in their respective professions, which had its own share of risks, both Hall and Ridsdel were unprepared for the brutal treatment they endured from the Abu Sayyaf. When the local government failed to secure their release, the two were executed in grotesque fashion.

Expats who perform any dangerous work must have contingencies ready for the day their world falls apart. The cliche rings true: Failing to plan is planning to fail.


It may sound trite, but the loss of property is commonplace in business operations. Even more so in attractive “emerging markets.” Expats who value their assets and reputations must put in the effort to know their work environment and keep track of the stuff that matters–addresses, credit cards, data, IDs, and anything whose loss can harm a good day’s work.

Reducing threats in an unpredictable setting like Southeast Asia isn’t easy to do. More than local knowledge and  mindfulness it does help if both high profile executives and large organizations have the resources for securing what they hold dear. If a lawyer can smoothen legal tangles, a risk consultant is there to snuff out potential wildfires. With three decades of success behind them, ARC have the instincts and skills to protect any business. Get in touch with them here.

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