Tourists beg for money in Malaysia with baby-swinging street stunt

The Russian man, who has been identified in local media with the name Mikhail, swings his daughter around by her legs.
The Russian man, who has been identified in local media with the name Mikhail, swings his daughter around by her legs.

The man holds the baby upside-down by its ankles, and begins to swing it between his legs, before balancing it above his head and even throwing it up in the air. A crowd is watching, and some record the spectacle with their smartphones. An amateur video shows a Russian couple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, performing this street act in order to earn money to fund their travelling. The video has been viewed over 67,000 times since it was posted on February 2.

According to the BBC, the Russian couple, who are both in their late twenties, are in Malaysia on a month-long tourist visa. The video was taken in Bukit Bintang, a district of the country’s capital.

Facebook users were shocked by the video of the street performance. The man who posted the video called it an “irresponsible act that can literally cause injury to that poor baby”. In the video, a voice says in Malay, “This is stupid, how can you do this?”

WARNING: This video could be distressing for some viewers.

This video was originally posted on Facebook here.

The Russian couple are an example of the phenomenon known as “beg-packing”, where tourists from usually developed countries travel to other countries and beg on the street in order to earn money to fund their travelling. In the video, the mother of the four-month-old child sits next to a homemade sign that explains that they are travelling around the world and so are looking for donations.

>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: 'Beg-packers': White tourists who beg in southeast Asia

We spoke to Ornella Lenoir, a midwife based in Switzerland, who was shocked by the video and said that it was risky for the infant’s health.

“It’s not right to expose a baby like a fairground attraction”

Before the baby is a year old there’s always the risk of shaken baby syndrome, which can cause severe brain damage, even death. Essentially, the skull is much larger than the brain is at this age in order to leave space for the brain to grow. So a sudden movement can make the brain hit the inside of the skull and become damaged.

What make it easier for this to happen is the fact that the muscles in the spine and the head are not yet strong enough to support the head in the first few months of a child’s development.

The other risk that I can see from this video is to the child’s limbs, whether it’s to the arms or the legs. It’s the same as for the head: the muscles are still too weak and there’s a lot of laxity so depending on the movements or how the child is manipulated, there’s also a risk of dislocation. Of course, there’s also the risk of them falling.

But for me, in any case it’s just scandalous that they’re even doing a show using their baby. It’s not right for a baby to be exposed like that, like a fairground attraction, at night, in the middle of a crowd.

After the video went viral, Malaysian police arrested the couple while they were in the middle of another performance a few days later on February 4. Police investigated the couple on grounds of endangering their infant daughter. They were released a day later.

Criminal investigation police chief Gunalan Muniandy told Malaysian media the New Straits Times that “The couple has been granted bail after doctors examined the baby and found nothing was wrong”.

The video has since been masked by Facebook, but not taken down. Facebook says that it was leaving the video up as it could “help with rescuing the child in question”.

‘Baby dynamics yoga’, or ‘baby gymnastics’ is a practice that originated in Russia. It remains legal, although is not without its fair share of controversy. Some Russian parents regularly perform these kinds of acrobatics with their infant, believing that it aids in strengthening the child’s muscles. The couple in Malaysia told local media that their baby enjoys the “exercise”.

This article was written by Catherine Bennett (cfbennett2).