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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Kiss warning to Malaysia tourists
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Petronas twin towers
The couple is said to have been kissing near the Petronas Towers
Kuala Lumpur's mayor has reassured tourists they will not face harassment if found kissing in public.

The comment comes after Malaysia's highest court said city officials were right to prosecute a local couple for allegedly holding hands and kissing.

The couple's lawyer warned foreigners may face up to a year in prison if they too behaved affectionately in public.

Ooi Kean Thong and Siow Ai Wei were charged with disorderly behaviour almost three years ago.

Officials claimed the couple were locked in an amorous embrace in a park beside the landmark Petronas Twin Towers.

Ms Siow said she was playing the violin while Mr Ooi read her a letter.

In England, those acts are acceptable to the people of that country, but is kissing and hugging acceptable to Malaysian citizens?
Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz

The case has yet to be decided, but on Tuesday the federal court rejected a challenge to the city's decision to prosecute.

Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz commented that hugging and kissing might be "acceptable in England", but he said it was open to question whether Malaysians took the same view.

But a warning from the couple's lawyer that tourists could find themselves hauled up before the courts prompted Kuala Lumpur's mayor to play down the ruling.

Mayor Roslin Hassan told the BBC that officials would simply advise people rather than arrest them if their behaviour was inappropriate.

He says holding hands is OK, but couples should not kiss too passionately in public.

TV censure

Malaysia has a Muslim majority, but people of all religions are broadly conservative in their outlook.

Local television channels reflect this by censoring kissing so viewers are left to fill in the gaps when characters about to embrace suddenly appear in different parts of the room looking shocked or emotional for no apparent reason.

The Malaysian government has had to step in to stop a number of organisations from forming private snoop squads to spy on the public and report immoral behaviour.

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