Recently it was the issue of domestic maid abuse, now the spotlight is on a 7 year old law also which allows for the caning of migrant workers in Malaysia.
Human rights group Amnesty International quoting a statement made in Malaysian parliament says at least 34-thousand migrants, 60 per cent of them from Indonesia have been whipped with a cane over the past 6 years.
Amnesty's Director of the Asia Pacific region Sam Zarifi says the punishment is cruel and constitutes torture.
Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International
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ZARIFI: Amnesty International has been quite worried about this law since it was introduced in 2002 when the law was instituted to add caning as punishment metered out to migrant labourers in Malaysia, we had been following this but I admit Amnesty International was stunned to find out the widespread nature of this problem when in the Malaysian parliament last week, the figures were released that nearly 35-thousand people had been caned since the law was passed in 2002.
WERDEN: And why were they being caned?
ZARIFI: As you know Malaysia is heavily reliant on migrant labour for its economy, there's probably more than 2 million migrant labourers and migrants in general in Malaysia. In 2002, in part to respond to public fears about this influx, the law was passed that added caning to the punishments available for migrants for a range of infractions some of them crimes but others quite low level infractions and since then the police have regularly handing out this punishment to migrants and of course this is a completely unacceptable form of punishment across the world, there's no question this amounts to torture and inhuman punishment. Certainly what we need to see from the Malaysian government, is steps to try and protect the migrant population instead of laws that subject them to medieval punishment.
WERDEN: Has there been a response from the Malaysian government?
ZARIFI: There is an attempt by Malaysian groups to try to reform, or in fact get rid of it obviously and the issue has been raised in the Malaysian parliament, we certainly believe now is the time for the Malaysian government to get rid of this punishment and we certainly hope attention from the international community but really also Malaysia's neighbours who produce most of the migrant labourers in particular Indonesia, will get the government to get rid of this law.
WERDEN: Would you be ramping up the campaign with various human rights groups in neighbouring countries?
ZARIFI: Certainly Amnesty International will be raising this issue in international foru and we will try to get the United Nations to take a look at the situation, at the same time we really think the best way forward is for regional governments, in particular Indonesia who provides the bulk of the migrant labour in Malaysia and 60 per cent of the people who had suffered caning in Malaysia are from Indonesia, we hope the Indonesian government on a bilateral level will raise this issue with the Malaysian government