>KUALA KLAWANG, MALAYSIA - In a move to stop Malaysian women being duped into carrying drugs for international syndicates, the Foreign Ministry has proposed that all women travelling out of the country alone be required to have a letter from parents or employers. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said the letter would be a declaration which stated clearly the reason the woman was travelling.
He said his ministry and the Home Ministry feel the move is necessary and a proposal for this has been submitted to the Cabinet. The move drew immediate flak from several quarters, including non-governmental organisations, women?s organisations and politicians.
?I have submitted this proposal to the Cabinet and both the Foreign and Home
Ministries feel this is necessary. Many of these women (who travel alone) leave the country on the pretext of work or attending courses and seminars.
?With this declaration, we will know for sure where and for what she is travelling overseas,? said Rais.
The New Sunday Times has learnt that 119 Malaysians, 90 per cent of whom are women, have been imprisoned in various parts of the world for drug-related offences.
The vast majority of these women are aged between 21 and 27, and are believed to have been duped or forced into being "mules" for the drug syndicates.
Last year alone, 80 Malaysians, of whom 53 have already been charged, were detained for such offences.
This is a shocking increase from only six such cases in 2004.
There were no known cases in 2005 and only four in 2006.
From January till April, 29 have been detained and imprisoned for drug-related offences.
It is learnt that the offences were committed in various countries, including China, Singapore, Malta, Brazil, Peru, Taiwan, Venezuela, India, Spain and Portugal.
It is learnt that Malaysians were prime targets for syndicates wanting to smuggle in drugs, especially into the European Union countries, because they do not require visas for short stays of up to 90 days or to transit in those countries.
This is part of the Schengen Agreement signed by most of the EU member countries in Luxembourg in 1985 and 1990.
According to a Foreign Ministry source, over the last four to five years, there has been a shift in the trend where more Malaysians are being caught for drug-related offences compared with credit card frauds earlier.
"These Malaysians, mostly women, are approached by members of a syndicate who usually meet them at night-spots.
"They target mostly women who do it either out of love or for money."
Rais said those detained were subject to the laws of those countries and Malay-sian authorities had to act within their jurisdiction when dealing with such cases.
"We are working closely with the Home Ministry and Interpol to offer any possible assistance to these people.
"But, there is only so much we can do."
Rais said enforcement from the relevant authorities must be beefed up to curb the operations of such syndicates which prey on these women.
"Another reason why women are targeted is that they are not as thoroughly searched as men when they leave airports.
"These are all areas which need to be looked into."
Malaysians are also being imprisoned for various others crimes, including credit card fraud, immigration offences and even human trafficking.