Kids' boot camp halted over python-in-pool training

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia has halted a team-building programme for children after the trainers forced pupils to wade across a muddy pool that had a blood python in it, a senior official said yesterday.

"We have also suspended four trainers and their six assistants. An investigation is under way into the blood python incident. It is not part of the training programme," Colonel Mohamad Noor Hassan, the head of the local Civil Defence Force, told Agence France-Presse.

The incident last Saturday in northern Perak state involved pupils aged between 10 and 12. It sparked outrage among Malaysians after a video of the training was shared on social media.

The three-minute video shows a group of girls screaming and struggling to get out of the pool with a python inside while a male trainer sprayed water on them to make it harder for them to climb out.

"It is not our aim to traumatise the children. Having the python in the pool was never part of the programme. It is a mistake. I am sorry it... happened," Col Mohamad Noor Hassan said.

The blood python is a non-venomous snake found in South-east Asia. It is often bred for sale as an exotic pet or farmed for use in the leather industry.

A total of 45 pupils - 17 boys and 28 girls - participated in the programme which was aimed at building courage and encouraging bonding.

Ms Chiam Heng Keng, a child psychologist and former human rights commissioner of Malaysia, condemned the actions of the trainers. "It definitely would have traumatised the children who will probably be experiencing nightmares," she said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Kids' boot camp halted over python-in-pool training'. Print Edition | Subscribe