Malaysian schoolgirls thrown into snake pit by camp instructors to ‘build their character’

The incident happened at a camp for children aged 10 to 12, organised by their school and the Malaysian Civil Defence Department

Charlotte England
Friday 21 October 2016 16:11 BST
Snakes thrown into pit with schoolgirls in Malaysian training camp

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Camp organisers who forced a group of Malaysian schoolchildren to wade through a muddy pit of snakes have been suspended from their jobs.

A video showing at least one snake being thrown into the trench as a group of screaming, crying 10-year-olds were made to cross from one side to the other has been shared thousands of times online.

The activity was part of a “team-building” exercise at a camp organised by their school and the Malaysian Civil Defence Department.

The video shows about a dozen girls being herded into the pit and then sprayed with water as they try to climb out.

The girls were also told to “get in and dive” by male instructors, who are not shown in the footage. The men can be heard laughing in the background.

The children were told the pool contained two pythons. As they waded through the pool, at least one more snake was thrown in and can be seen in the video slithering around.

The activity was part of a motivational camp for children aged between 10 and 12, which is believed to have taken place in Kuala Kangsar, in the western state of Perak.

In an interview with Russia Today, National Parent-Teachers Association chairman Mohamad Ali Hassan condemned the incident.

“The government should ban this kind of training. Suspend the training centre and put the trainers involved on blacklist,” he said.

“The trainers should be sent for rehabilitation, themselves. It is a live snake. Not a toy snake. What were they thinking?”

Psychiatrist Andrew Mohanraj, deputy president of the Malaysian Mental Health Association, told the news outlet he was concerned about the psychological impact the ordeal could have had on the children.

“For some participants who are more vulnerable, it can create unnecessary phobia that can have long-term implications,” he said.

He added there was no scientific evidence to show such an acitivty could “toughen up” a child.

The Malaysian Civil Defence Department said they had suspended four coaches and six assistants for their role in the exercise shortly after the video emerged on Monday, pending internal investigations.

Perak civil defence department director Mohd Noor Hassan Ashaari Sulaiman told state news agency Bernama the camp’s co-ordinators had modelled the exercise on training videos found on YouTube.

The use of snakes was not endorsed by the department and was not part of its self-development module.

“This incident cannot be taken lightly,” he said, adding that the snakes were not venomous.

Malaysian Civil Defence Force deputy director-general of operations Selamat Dahalan said the incident was being investigated and a report should be ready within a week.

“We regret that this has happened. This is an individual act and not sanctioned by the department. In fact, it is against our standard operating procedure to have such training for primary school children,” he said.

Civil Defence Department officials will meet with the parents of those involved to explain the situation.

“We hope that they can accept our apologies and explanation on the incident,” he said at a press conference.

He added that the training modules for primary school children usually involved demonstrations of what they should do in an emergency, some basic first-aid training and fire awareness.

“The one showed in the video is nothing like what we have conducted before," he said.

“There should not be any water spraying or making the kids wade in a muddy pit – let alone involving a snake.”

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