Bomb hoax calls disrupt US IT firms in Malaysia

IBM Corp. staff in Kuala Lumpur were forced to evacuate their 24-story IBM Towers building Wednesday following phone calls to police that a bomb had been planted there, the official government news agency Berita Nasional Malaysia (Bernama) has reported. A two-hour search of the building revealed nothing and police later said the call was a hoax, Bernama said.

A separate bomb threat was issued against Kuala Lumpur’s 1,483-foot, 88-story Petronas Twin Towers, currently the world’s tallest building, which houses over 20 U.S. and other multinational IT corporations. Around 2,000 people were evacuated from the building.

IT companies with offices in Petronas Towers include the local subsidiaries of Lucent Technologies Inc., Computer Associates International Inc., Alcatel SA, Accenture Inc., Singapore portal Pte. Ltd., the Telstra Corp. Ltd.- Pacific Century Cyberworks Ltd. (PCCW) joint venture Reach, and the U.K.’s Analysys Ltd.

Several other IT companies share IBM Towers, including Telekom Malaysia Bhd. subsidiary VADS Sdn. Bhd., the agency said.

In the high-tech Malaysian manufacturing island of Penang, a further bomb threat was issued against a building containing a U.S. bank. This also turned out to be a hoax, Bernama said.

Malaysia is a major manufacturing centre for disk drives and personal computers, the majority of which are shipped to the United States, which is the country’s largest export market. Six years ago, Malaysia set up a high-tech project called the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), designed to attract foreign companies to transfer advanced technologies into the country and base research efforts there.

Malaysia is also a Muslim nation, with the moderate governing United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party under increasing electoral pressure from the more strict Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) party.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has often spoken openly about his concern that globalization of trade amounts to nothing more than domination of small countries by large multinational companies and investors. Mahathir blamed international currency speculators for making the 1997 Asian financial crisis worse.

In a speech in Singapore Monday, Mahathir said that Asia’s financial crisis is ongoing and will not end “until the international financial system is changed and those who abuse it are curbed.”

Last week, Mahathir said there were signs that Malaysia’s key electronics sector is picking up, stirring hopes that economic growth would recover in the fourth quarter.

Earlier, Mahathir strongly condemned this week’s terrorist attacks in the United States.