Executive Protection across Asia
“An operational look at carrying out Executive Close Protection across Asia”
In this blog, Intelligent Protection International Limited Manager for Asia, Sat Rayit, talks about the difficulties and challenges of operating Executive Protection in Asia, giving some great insight into some of the pitfalls.
For professional Bodyguards who get the chance to work in the Executive Protection (EP) environment overseas in non- western countries, the work can be heavily influenced by several factors; culture, diversity, economic development or various markets to name a few. Operationally, the basics remain the same; Principal and Client, Information, Intelligence, Risk, Strategy, Policy, Team, Local Contacts and Liaison with local authorities etc.
Intelligent Protection International Limited, is lucky in that it has been operating in Asia for some time via its offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The local contacts and network the company and group have is invaluable to any close protection operation.
“In Asia, expect plans not to last too long, be dynamic and expect often weird things!”
The world is smaller place, yet, we all sector it into regions for a variety of reasons, hence, for this blog I aim to give an insight into my experience of projects in the China South Pacific region.
As an Individual Bodyguard (IBG), I have relied heavily on the intelligence support network as evidenced by Intelligent Protection International Travel Advisories. You only have to open an international newspaper to see that over the last decade the Asian region has, and still is, considered volatile to de-stabilising activity from rising and pre-existing risks.
Based on intelligence, threat assessments, country, region and Principal, I prepared a pre-brief for my Client and revised it, as last minute changes were inevitable due to the nature of the Client’s interests in the region. This meant each time we travelled to a location in that region, I was able bolster my briefings and contacts. This proved invaluable, as three days after we left, at one of the locations, a terrorist attack took place not more than half a mile away from where we were based, thus, proving information and intelligence is a ‘MasterCard’ moment when correct - priceless!
The flip-side of local information and reconnaissance in this part of the world, is especially helpful when called at midnight by the Principal saying they want to head out for food and knowing when and where is safe to go. Street food and food stalls are prevalent, which in its own way also attracts the local pickpockets. Close Quarter Tactics and observations are paramount, along with giving the ‘nod’ or ‘eye’ to those you identify, to show you’re aware of them – a tool which served me well.
Liaising with law enforcement is always a carefully balanced subject, as the initial ice-breaker must be good. To my advantage, my ethnic background and experience of working with diverse cultures in a previous role/life from this region, allowed access to local contacts, Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions (always good to know the difference), also, knowing some local phrases is extremely handy in certain situations. I found keeping my network in tact was essential to this role.
Operating covertly meant I could blend in and monitor without being noticed and allowed a greater variety of ‘closer range’ work with my Principal. It also meant I had to ensure I implemented private one-to-one coaching on drills and movements. Only after this, could I essentially lock down the principal enough to allow me to carry out what a Security Advance Party (SAP) would do, in line with the itinerary.
Having to also operate with a media team in these separate but Pan-Asian locations, they required separate briefings and at times ‘quick dry runs’, much to the annoyance of the event staff, who let’s just say, came to an understanding - also known as ‘the art of communication’, with a pinch of ‘Hearts and Minds’.
As a lone IBG/Personal Protection Officer (PPO), during the role, I was referred to as ‘the Assistant, Support and Admin Officer’ – to all newcomers to the role of PPO/IBG, here is some advice I would give:
- Operating covertly or as an IBG is to not appear as one
- Act like the ‘Tourist’ to blend in but remain vigilant as it’s all on you!
- Communicate and explain to the Principal, they’re human too and guess what? They will listen if logical.
- Be flexible and ready always, easier said than done after 17 hours awake with principal!
Team working in the region had two variations:
1. Working with Hotel Security for certain aspects, only to brief them on what involved them, sometimes not giving them the full specification as to why – for obvious reasons.
Although, not advisable sometimes depending on items out of your control, such as, budgets and last minute additions or delays. I found in the lesser-developed Pan-Asian countries, a lot of improvisation and thinking on my feet was required with transportation, venue facilitation and logistics.
2. Operating as art of a full overt security detail, the Team Leader (TL) and Security Advance Party (SAP) covered and dealt with the local bureaucracy and red tape, this was paramount, especially when operating in an essentially hardcore communist country.
Even though Anti and Counter-surveillance tactics were employed due to demographic and cultural aspects and delays, for example, no sense of time and increased pressure on movements, inevitably, in such a country, resulted in the movements being tracked (quite obviously at times).
So, as if the conditions were not already without their constraints, add into the mix another PPO/IBG of another Principal from the same Client, whom along with his Principal, joined my Principal at different junctures of the project. Logistically, this meant tactics, formations, along with stretching our interpreter between two principals at any one time, required flexibility, such as; changes to meetings, which became mobile, knock on effects to VIP vehicles, SAP vehicles and new locations etc.
Everything you learnt and practiced in other aspects of the world regarding vehicle tactics and convoys, unless you have diplomatic escorts, are severely tested in this region of the world and in certain circumstances, scrapped altogether. The demographic of these countries consists of thousands of cycles, mopeds, overladen transport with no regard for other road users (as you may have seen on the internet no doubt), you find that you engage more with the road and conditions at a considerably faster rate than you would in western countries.
Equipment wise, airwave communications were utilized but essentials would have to be mobile Wi-Fi, as route and venue changes for meetings meant these tools came into their own. Translation apps, for the local driver who spoke English but not to western standards when going off-piste and let’s not forget, the essentials of the ‘Go-bag’.
I should mention at this point, that it is not wise to trust or rely on communications in Asia, especially not China, for operational security reasons, do not transmit or indeed do internet searches that might leave either yourself or the Client exposed. It is said that "man in the middle" monitoring/attacks are quite common in airports and public areas in Asia.
In conclusion, as a basic guide, I would go so far as to say that although you can box off the region in question as ‘Asia’, the sub-regionalisation is essential as research. The way of operating in the respective countries is different - so much so, that one of my mentors was operating in a neighbouring Pan-Asian country where the threat was considerably higher, with a different demographic mix and set-up…and was only 40 mins from our location!
I hope this blog article insight goes someway in giving a basic narrative, as to the complexities that sometimes increase from operating within the region mentioned. I have purposely not mentioned any location specifically as to confidentially and legal reasons.
If you require any further information with regards to our bodyguard services in Asia, please do visit: Close Protection Services in AsiaMr. Sat Rayit, Protective Services Manager (Asia)
Intelligent Protection International Limited
142C Jalan Ampang,
West Block, 15th Floor,
Kuala Lumpur, 50450, Malaysia
Tel: +60 32772 7346