Malaysia has suspended two immigration officers as it investigates allegations that they forced a pair of Singaporean women to do squats naked, a senior official said Friday.
The women’s allegations were first reported by the media in Singapore last week, and Malaysian immigration director general Alias Ahmad said that an investigation was opened on Thursday.
According to the Straits Times, the women in their 20s and 30s were heading into southern Malaysia for dinner on June 9 and accidentally drove through an unattended immigration line on the road border between Malaysia and Singapore.
When they returned to the immigration checkpoint to report their mistake, the women were handcuffed, thrown behind bars, told to undress and forced to perform squats, according to the paper. They were held for nearly 48 hours.
“(Two officials) have been temporarily suspended pending the investigation,” Alias told AFP.
“We are investigating what really happened and whether the officials in charge complied with the procedures,” he said. “Thirdly, we are also looking at whether we need any improvement in our procedures.”
Alias said Malaysia’s immigration procedures allowed officials to strip-search detainees to make sure they were not carrying drugs, weapons or other forbidden items.
He said it was up to each officer’s discretion whether to make detainees squat.
“The purpose and objective of the body search is to make sure that the person is free of any forbidden item,” he said.
Malaysian opposition parties and women’s groups have long called for an end to the practice of making women squat, saying it is an abuse of power and humiliating.
There was a nationwide furore in late 2005 when a video recording emerged showing a naked woman performing squats while a policewoman in uniform looked on.
An inquiry into the incident found the practice to be common but inhumane and recommended it be scrapped.