Private security consultants warned local business leaders Wednesday to stay alert and refrain from “loose talk,” or they run a greater risk of becoming kidnapping victims.
With the recent rise of executive abductions on the minds of many, the topic dominated a security seminar, sponsored by the American-Cambodian Business Council, at the Hotel Sofitel Cambodiana.
“There will be more kidnappings, folks,” Robert Scott, executive director of Paladin Resources Ltd, told the nearly 100 attendees. “Why? Because most of us are sleepy.”
During the seminar and after, the four panelists attributed the problem to gangs and a spike in the unemployment rate since last July’s factional fighting. Recently, ethnic Chinese and Cambodian businesspeople have been the most common targets.
Some mentioned that security is important for economic development. But John Muller, director of MPA Ltd, said he believes enforcement efforts have improved in recent months.
And one consultant predicted the spotlight soon will shift to elections-related violence.
“Two to three months ago, there was a wave of robberies,” noted John Svensson, manager of Global Safety Cambodia. “Today, we face a wave of kidnappings. Now, I expect there will be a wave of political violence.”
The panelists offered some common tips on preventing and surviving abductions:
• Keep a low profile and be careful about revealing personal and corporate information to employees and acquaintances. Children should be warned against disclosing family information.
• Do background checks before hiring maids, drivers, guards and other employees. Kidnappings often are “inside” jobs.
• Consider developing corporate policies on how to handle such emergencies.
Peter Slade, director of Asset Management Ltd, said a breach of confidentiality or misinformation about a person is a common denominator to almost every kidnapping.
That’s why a person has to be careful about “talking out of school” about themselves or family, he said.
Scott said most kidnappings occur in the morning, when victims are more likely to be caught off-guard.
He said the first few minutes of an abduction are critical, as events may or may not go the way the kidnapper planned.
“If in public, make noise and take a chance,” Scott said. “If you make enough noise, these guys may back off.” One should always look for ways to escape, he said.
Once an abduction has succeeded, however, Scott cautioned that the kidnappers are in control. “Be passive, but don’t be a slave. Maintain your dignity, your pride, go with the flow.”
He said using one’s head to remember details improves the chances for a rescue or escape.
For example, if one is in a car, is it turning left or right? Is it going over railroad tracks? Can anything useful be picked up in the conversations between the abductors?
Developing a rapport with the kidnappers also can be useful: Abductors might be more sympathetic once they get to know the victim as a person.