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Brunei defends flogging policy

BRUNEI has defended its tough penalties against illegal immigrants after revealing that nearly 400 foreigners were whipped in the past five years for settling unlawfully in this oil-rich country, a news report said yesterday.

Authorities have flogged 396 foreigners with rattan canes for entering Brunei without valid travel documents or overstaying after immigration laws were tightened in 2004, according to Immigration Department data reported by the Borneo Bulletin newspaper.

Those whipped were mainly from other Asian countries, including Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand, according to the report.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have slammed Brunei's whipping penalties, which are part of its criminal laws and are also used for other offenses including rape, theft and smuggling.

Immigration Department representatives could not be immediately contacted yesterday, but the Borneo Bulletin quoted a senior official as saying that foreign workers must abide by the law.

"We also received inquiries concerning such punishment. Neighboring countries too carry out such lashes," the official told the Bulletin. Malaysia and Singapore also have flogging punishments for various crimes.

Some diplomats in Brunei have also voiced reservations about corporal punishment.

They said many migrant workers unknowingly commit visa violations because of negligent employers, who do not get whipped themselves.

Brunei, a nation of 380,000 people, is located on Borneo island. Its offshore oil and gas reserves have made it one of the world's richest nations per capita, and it relies on foreign workers to fill such menial jobs as laborers and housemaids.


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