Malaysian parents who abandon their newborns and leave them to die could face the gallows, as authorities step up their response to a series of gruesome cases of abandoned babies.
The government has reportedly agreed that baby dumping will now be probed under the offence of attempted murder or murder, which is punishable by a mandatory death sentence on conviction.
Several recent cases are being investigated under more lenient criminal codes, such as abandonment, that carry up to 10 years imprisonment.
"The government has no choice because of the rising number of cases. Despite the various initiatives, baby dumping is still happening," Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil reportedly said.
"We have taken a welfare approach all this while but the problem continues," she told the New Straits Times newspaper in comments confirmed by her aide today.
"The government cannot allow this state of affairs to continue and that is why the classification will be changed to attempted murder or murder."
Authorities are alarmed over a jump in baby dumping cases, with 60 recorded so far this year, compared to 79 for the whole of last year. There have been 241 babies abandoned since 2008.
Media reports have highlighted cases of newborns abandoned in the streets or at rubbish dumps. In March, the body of a baby boy who was left on the roadside was found by passers-by. His left hand had been bitten off by wild dogs.
The minister has previously attributed the rise in abandoned babies to unmarried couples not knowing where to seek help after having a child out of wedlock.