Three Singaporeans who were part of a cosplay festival in Kuala Lumpur at the weekend were detained by Malaysian authorities for allegedly violating the conditions of their social visit passes.
Malaysian media reported that the country's immigration authority - Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia (JIM) - conducted a raid on Cosplay Festival 4, a two-day event at Sunway Putra Hotel, at about 2pm on Saturday.
JIM Kuala Lumpur director Hamidi Adam told media that 12 people were detained, including the event organiser, Mr Ahmad Syafiq Nizar Ahmad Radzi, a 27-year-old Malaysian.
The other 11 are foreign participants, made up of three Singaporeans, two Thai nationals, one person from Hong Kong, and five Japanese, one of whom was a resident in Malaysia who was also selling merchandise at the event, according to Japanese news portal SoraNews24.
Mr Hamidi said a total of 52 participants were checked, and investigations revealed that the foreigners detained entered Malaysia on social visit passes a few days before the event.
The cosplay festival was held without permission from Malaysia's Central Agency for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes, or Puspal, he said.
According to JIM's website, professional visit passes are issued to foreign stage artists who wish to perform in Malaysia, and applications should be forwarded to Puspal for approval.
Cosplay Festival 4's Facebook event page had promised stage performances and booths with exhibitions and fan-made products.
When asked, Mr Syafiq, the events director of Cosplay Corner, which organised Cosplay Festival 4, did not directly address questions about whether he sought prior permission from Puspal, but said those detained were not paid to perform or to work for the event.
Speaking to The New Paper over the phone yesterday, he said the cosplayers paid for their own transport and accommodation, adding the only performers that were paid were Malaysians.
Mr Syafiq, who was released from custody on Sunday, said: "These people are just hobbyists...
"They are also friends of mine. That is why they were willing to come."
Mr Syafiq said the 11 foreigners were being held at the immigration department's lock-up at Jalan Duta and he was taking responsibility for what had happened.
He has already informed their respective embassies and parents, who are being given daily updates.
He said he has also hired a lawyer for 10 of the 11 detainees that did not have their own legal representation.
Forced to cancel the second day of the festival, Mr Syafiq added that he will be contacting sponsors and booth tenants in due course and hopes to refund at least half of the money they paid up by end-April.
He is still deciding how to refund those who bought tickets for the second day's events.
This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.