Malaysia has decided to abolish the death penalty, a senior minister said yesterday, with more than 1,200 people on death row set to win a reprieve following a groundswell of opposition to capital punishment.
Executions are currently mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes, and is carried out by hanging -- a legacy of British colonial rule.
Human Rights Watch hailed the "fabulous news", with its deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson saying the move would increase pressure on other countries in the region to follow suit.
The government decided to scrap capital punishment because the Malaysian public had shown they were against the death penalty, communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo Gobind said.
"I hope the law will be amended soon," he told AFP.
Government minister Liew Vui Keong reportedly said earlier yesterday there would be a moratorium on executions for inmates currently on death row.
"Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out," the Star newspaper quoted him as saying.
Liew said the amended law would be put before parliament next Monday.
The government's announcement was "an encouraging sign", Amnesty International's Kumi Naidoo said in a statement.
“There is no time to waste -- the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago."