Malaysian tourists watch public caning in Aceh

Malaysian tourists watch public caning in Aceh
An Acehnese woman pleads with a religious officer who will cane her for spending time in close proximity with a man who is not her husband, which is against Sharia law, in Banda Aceh on February 27, 2017.
PHOTO: AFP

Public caning as a tourist attraction?

Why not, argue Aceh tourism officials who have been toying with the controversial idea in the past 10 years.

It might seem a sick idea to those against corporal punishments being meted out in public, but Indonesia's only region allowed to enforce its own brand of Islamic sharia law claims that they do not inflict serious injury on offenders.

One caning session on Monday (March 20) actually attracted a busload of Malaysian tourists led by opposition PAS senator Dato Dr Johari bin Mat.

Dr Johari, who is a Kelantan politician from PAS clergy wing, told Kompas news it was his first time witnessing live caning in Aceh after watching a video of it taken by a friend who visited the region earlier.

He also noted that sharia caning in Aceh, which is similar to how it is implemented in Malaysia, is not meant to inflict physical harm on offenders. It is aimed at making them "repent for their mistakes and ask God for forgiveness", he said.

But there's one big difference. Sharia caning is carried out in an enclosed area away from public eye in Malaysia.

Whereas in Aceh, hundreds of people would gather to watch, and often take photos and videos of the proceedings held on a raised platform.

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Back in 2007, Aceh's former head of tourism Cipta Hunai had tried to promote public caning as an attraction for tourists.

The official told the media South China Morning Post then: "I don't think they are going to scare the tourists. To defend truth and justice is not something scary. I believe tourists would agree."

Caning is common in Aceh under its strict Islamic laws, for offences ranging from drinking alcohol and gambling to having gay sex, reported AFP.

In the past, only Muslim residents could be flogged, but that changed in 2015.

Earlier this month, two Chinese men were the first Indonesian Buddhists to be whipped in the city of Jantho. They were punished in front of dozens of local officials and residents for organising cockfighting, which usually involved gambling.

The two men reportedly grimaced as they received nine and seven lashes on their backs respectively, according to the AFP report.

chenj@sph.com.sg

Read also: Aceh to cane gays caught having sex

Aceh woman publicly caned for standing too close to boyfriend

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