11 foreign performers arrested at KL cosplay event have been released
In a Facebook post published today, 29 March, the organiser of Cosplay Festival 4 confirmed that all 11 cosplayers who were arrested on Saturday, 23 March have been released from the Immigration Department's custody and are now with their respective embassies.
Chontitirat Kaewdang, a Thai national who was one of the 11 foreigners detained on Saturday, opened up about her experience on Facebook shortly after her release
Chontitirat, who cosplays under the name Moiichan, revealed that she was invited and not paid to attend the event.
She also said that she was not aware that she needed a work visa, adding that the whole fiasco happened because the organiser did not arrange proper legal documentation for his VIP guests.
26 MARCH: A cosplay event in Kuala Lumpur was forced to cancel its second day after its event organiser and 11 foreign guests were arrested during a raid by the Immigration Department
Officers from the Immigration Department stormed a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, where Cosplay Festival 4 was held, at around 2pm on Saturday, 23 March following a tip-off.
Of the 11 foreigners arrested, five of them are Japanese (one of whom resides in Malaysia and was also selling merchandise at the event), three from Singapore, two from Thailand, and one Hong Kong national.
The 11 foreigners, believed to have been invited to cosplay and perform at the event, were reportedly detained because the event organiser had failed to obtain appropriate work visas for them
"Investigations have revealed that the detained foreigners have been in the country for a few days using a social visit pass," said Kuala Lumpur Immigration director Hamidi Adam.
As such, the visiting cosplayers were considered "illegal immigrants" or Pendatang Asing Tanpa Izin (PATI) for breaching the terms of their social visit pass.
Hamidi added that the festival itself was also operating without necessary authorisation from PUSPAL (Central Committee for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes).
According to the Immigration Department's website, foreign nationals who are visiting Malaysia for specific professional reasons - even if it's just for a short period - should be entering the country with a Professional Visit Pass (PLIK)
PLIK application guidelines state that it is a "sponsor" or, in this case, the event organiser's responsibility to apply for the pass prior to the applicant's arrival into the country.
The application, which is to be submitted to the Immigration Department, would then be forwarded to PUSPAL for coordination and approval before it can be issued by the Immigration Department.
Due to the legal hoo-ha, Cosplay Festival 4's second day - which was scheduled for Sunday, 24 March - was ultimately cancelled
The fiasco has left a bad taste in ACG enthusiasts' mouths, amidst worries that the "Fyre Festival of cosplay" will ruin the Malaysian community's image
Many also criticised the event organiser, 27-year-old Ahmad Syafiq Nizar Ahmad Radzi, for "cutting corners" despite having organised the past three editions of Cosplay Festival
At the time of writing, the organiser himself has been released from custody. In an interview with Singaporean portal The New Paper, Syafiq claimed that the arrested cosplayers were "only hobbyists" and were not paid to attend the event.
He also told The New Paper that they paid for their own transport and accommodation, saying, "They are also friends of mine. That is why they were willing to come."
He added that he is taking responsibility for the debacle, and that the visiting cosplayers' respective embassies and parents have been informed about the arrests. The New Paper reported that a lawyer has also been hired for 10 of 11 detainees who did not have their own legal representation.
Syafiq also released a statement promising to issue refunds to exhibitors and ticket-holders at a later date
It is believed, however, that the detained foreigners are still in the Immigration Department's custody at the time of writing
SoraNews24 reported that the Japanese embassy has gotten involved, as did the Singapore High Commission in Malaysia, according to The Straits Times.
The case is being investigated under Clause 56(1)(d) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 and Sub-regulation 39(b) of Immigration Regulations 1963, both of which carry monetary fines and jail time if found guilty.