Malaysia's prime minister has publicly rebuked a deputy minister for being rude to foreigners in a spiraling scandal over a nude video of a Chinese-looking woman forced to strip in police custody. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who rarely singles out senior government officials for criticism, reprimanded Deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar late Wednesday for apparently defending the police in the stripping of the unidentified woman.
A secretly shot video on a camera phone showed the naked woman, who appears to be Chinese, being made to perform squats in the presence of a policewoman. "I reprimanded (Noh) on the matter," Abdullah told the national news agency, Bernama. "Government officials should be more sensitive and careful when issuing statements on the issue."
Noh had insisted Tuesday he believed police had not flouted procedure in making the woman strip. "If foreigners feel we are cruel, they don't have to live in Malaysia, they can go back to their own countries," Noh told reporters. He later claimed his remark was misinterpreted and apologized for any ill feeling it sparked.
Abdullah told Bernama that Noh's comments do not reflect those of the government, and that Malaysia welcomes tourists and other foreign visitors.
Opposition leaders have urged Abdullah to suspend Noh, saying his comments could jeopardize ties with other countries, especially China.
The nude video has bolstered claims by human rights activists that police routinely mistreat detainees, and also raised concerns that the Malay-dominated police unfairly target Chinese, whether foreigner or local. Ethnic Chinese comprise about a quarter of Malaysia's 25 million people, while the majority are ethnic Malays, reports the AP. I.L.