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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 November 2005, 14:08 GMT
Malaysia police minister 'sorry'
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Grab from video apparently showing prisoner abuse
The video has provoked outrage in Malaysia and China
A Malaysian minister who said foreigners could leave the country if they objected to the way the country's police behaved has apologised.

Noh Omar's remarks came just days after a video emerged of an ethnic Chinese woman being forced to perform naked squats in a Malaysian police station.

China has protested about the alleged treatment of its citizens.

Mr Noh's apology was grudging at best. He said he was sorry if anyone had interpreted the comments negatively.

What I meant was Malaysia is a safe country. If foreigners think our police are cruel and the country is not safe, then they would have gone back home long time ago. I did not tell them to go back.
Noh Omar

Mr Noh's original comments appeared to be a direct challenge to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who had already condemned the manner of the strip search and ordered a full independent inquiry.

One senior party colleague went so far as to tell the BBC that Mr Noh was "an idiot".

Chinese anger

Mr Noh, the minister responsible for the police, was widely quoted as saying that if foreigners thought the Malaysian police were brutal, they could go home.

"If foreigners think that Malaysia police are brutal, please go back to their own countries and not to stay here," Noh Omar told reporters.

He also defended the humiliating strip-search procedure captured on video.

Now he claims he in fact asked why so many foreigners chose to live in Malaysia if it was not peaceful and if the police were cruel.

The affair has already soured relations with China, where the media have reported numerous claims of ill-treatment by tourists visiting Malaysia.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government asked for abusive police officers to be punished, and for its citizens in Malaysia to be properly protected.

The case has also served to confirm many Malaysians' long-held suspicions about police brutality, and there have been calls both for rapid reform and for Mr Noh's sacking.

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