Indonesia will temporarily suspend sending domestic helpers to Malaysia amid outrage over the abuse of its nationals by their employers, the labour minister said on Thursday.
"We will temporarily stop sending domestic helpers to Malaysia as we wait for the completion of a review on (the current) Memorandum of Understanding," Erman Suparno told reporters, adding the suspension was effective from Friday.
It will last at least until meetings between Indonesian and Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur in mid-July to discuss a new agreement on migrant workers, Suparno said.
Indonesia has proposed that domestic helpers be protected from non-payment of wages and poor conditions and be ensured of the right to days off and holidays, Suparno said.
"Domestic workers should also be able to hold on to their passports," he said.
"If our demands are not fulfilled and not guaranteed in the MoU, we will not continue (sending workers)," Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Da'i Bachtiar said.
Malaysia has no laws governing conditions for domestic workers but the government has promised to draft legislation to protect them from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor conditions.
Malaysia is home to some 1.2 million documented Indonesian workers, as well as about 800,000 Indonesians working there illegally.
Cases of abuse of maids at the hands of Malaysian bosses are a frequent source of outrage in Indonesia, contributing to often prickly relations between the two countries.
A 43-year-old Malaysian woman was charged last week with causing grievous bodily harm to a 33-year-old Indonesian domestic helper by allegedly beating her with a cane and dousing her with boiling water.
A Malaysian former flight attendant was also sentenced in November to 18 years in jail for using an iron and scalding water to inflict horrific wounds on her maid.