Bangladesh Country Report
Bangladesh's domestic political and security climate remains highly concerning. This, in addition to significant health and natural risks, has led some governments to advise their citizens against nonessential travel to the entire country.
Despite widespread acts of violence by Islamic extremists, some of which have been linked by analysts to the transnational terrorist group Islamic State (IS), Bangladeshi authorities continue to deny the presence of IS forces inside their borders. Instead, they blame the "neo-JMB," referring to the radical group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). The original JMB was an Al-Qa'ida affiliate that operated in the country between 2001 and 2005. Various other terrorist outfits are present in Bangladesh, including the Ansar al-Islam organization, the Bangladesh branch of Al-Qa'ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).
The severity of the terrorist threat was made apparent on July 1, 2016. On this day a deadly attack was carried out at the Holey Artisan Bakery, an eatery located near the American Embassy inside the heavily fortified diplomatic enclave of the capital Dhaka. The incident involved hostages and resulted in the deaths of more than 20 foreign nationals; IS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Several counter-terrorism operations have taken place in recent months in Bogra district, which is where the commander of a northern Bangladesh faction of JMB was killed in early March 2017. Raids have also been conducted in the Sylhet and Chittagong districts.
Travel to the Chittagong Hill Tracts region (east) is particularly advised against due to the high risk of political violence as well as kidnapping. Extremist groups have explicitly threatened to abduct foreigners in Chittagong, Sylhet, Feni, and Khulna in the past.
The security situation has continued to deteriorate since the beginning of 2015, with Bangladeshi society becoming extremely anti-intellectual and anti-secular. There is genuine support from various Bangladeshi political entities for converting the country into a theocratic Islamist state; those sections have never shied away from violence to assert their ideologies. A series of assassinations carried out by radical groups against civil society leaders and liberal thinkers has left some 30 people dead over the past two years, including liberal writers, bloggers, and journalists, as well as members of religious minorities. Groups such as Hefazat-e-Islam are behind some of the killings.
The reinstallation of a Lady Justice statue near Dhaka's Supreme Court in May 2017 - removed following protests by Islamist hardliners in 2008 - prompted further demonstrations by extremists, who consider the statue as anti-Islamic.
The next parliamentary elections are set to take place between October 2018 and January 2019, during which time widespread protests remain a strong possibility.
With just 96 police personnel per 100,000 citizens, Bangladesh ranks among the ten countries with the lowest police presence. This feeble force handles everything from law enforcement to human trafficking, the narcotics trade, road traffic, and security. The force tends to be deployed mostly in Dhaka, Chittagong, and Sylhet, leaving the rest of the country with little or no law enforcement. Therefore, even during "normal" times, there is a great deal of insecurity in urban areas; muggings, perpetrated by small groups often armed with knives, are on the rise. In Dhaka and other large cities in Bangladesh, financial fraud, vehicle theft, and petty drug crimes comprise the majority of criminal activity. Homicides and sexual assaults occur regularly but are more seldom; generally, these crimes tend to be situational with the perpetrators and the victim having some level of familiarity.
Although foreigners are not particularly targeted, there have been reported cases of foreigners being drugged and then robbed; never accept consumables (cigarettes, food, drink, candy) from a stranger, even if the packages are sealed.
Attacks by pirates along the coast are common. Foreigners should avoid the Sundarbans Mangroves (southwest), a notorious refuge for a variety of criminal groups.
Prolonged power outages are common in the summer, a period of intense heat on the subcontinent. Outages often provoke violent protests by angry residents.
Bangladesh is vulnerable to natural disasters. Every year, one-third of the country is affected by floods. Over three days in July 2017, heavy rains affected over 900,000 people in northeastern Bangladesh, forcing large-scale evacuations. Deadly landslides and mudslides occur regularly after torrential rains; at least 140 people were killed in mudslides in the south in June 2017.
Cyclones and tropical storms regularly hit coastal regions. The worst occurrence dates to 2007 with Cyclone Sdir, which left 1500 people dead in its wake. Most recently, Cyclone Mora killed seven people after making landfall between the cities of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, areas regularly affected by rains and floods.
Thunderstorms are very dangerous in Bangladesh; for example, 22 people were killed by lightning strikes within a two-day period in June 2017.
Foreign visitors should note that Bangladesh is a developing country and that infrastructure - particularly roads - is in poor condition. Furthermore, public transportation is not very reliable or safe and is best avoided.
Medical facilities are generally second-rate. If possible, individuals should travel to major cities in the region such as Singapore or Bangkok for any major healthcare needs.
Mosquito-borne diseases are present in Bangladesh. The risk of malaria transmission is low in Dhaka and high in the districts of Chittagong Hill Tract (Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachari), Chittagong, and Cox's Bazaar all year long. Dengue fever is endemic throughout the country, including in Dhaka from late June through October. There is a low risk of contracting the Zika virus.
There are cases of animal rabies in the country, with a sharp increase observed annually during the animals' breeding seasons.
Diarrheal diseases are very common, with epidemics occurring from early April until the end of the summer. Wash hands thoroughly before meals and only drink bottled or purified water.
The climate in Bangladesh ranges from subtropical to tropical, with a dry and relatively cool season (lows of 21°C) extending from November to February and a rainy season from April to October. The monsoon affects the country between June and September and causes numerous floods. There is a risk of cyclones between May and June and again from October until November. From March to May, the country experiences very high temperatures (35°C) and high levels of humidity, as well as frequent violent thunderstorms.
Useful NumbersCountry Code: +880 Police: 999
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Bangladesh: BNP plans nationwide protests February 17, 18, 20 /update 4
TIMEFRAME: from 2/15/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/20/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Dhaka).
Bangladesh: Thousands protest jailing of former PM Zia February 12 /update 3
TIMEFRAME: from 2/12/2018, 12:00 AM until 2/14/2018, 11:59 PM (Asia/Dhaka).