Sweden is closing five embassies worldwide in 2011: Buenos Aires, Brussels, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur and Luanda.
The official reason is budget cuts. “This painful decision is a consequence of the recent decision of the Riksdag to cut funding to the Government Offices by SEK 300 million,” said Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt.
Elsewhere within Asean, Sweden has embassies in Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Phnom Penh and Hanoi. Unlike certain Asean countries, Malaysia actually has an embassy in Sweden.
The closure is all the more puzzling as Malaysia is one of Sweden’s largest trade partners in Southeast Asia, according to the Swedish Embassy’s website.
Last March, some 200 Perkasa members gathered at the Swedish Embassy in KL and submitted a memo to protest at Swedish cartoonist Lars Volk’s caricatures published in the Swedish media that denigrated the Prophet. (See photos on the Perkasa blog-site.)
The controversy over whether Kartika should be caned for drinking beer – which undermined Malaysia’s ‘moderate Islam’ image abroad – was prominently featured in the Swedish media. See, for instance, an outspoken reaction here over the Kartika case, published on the website of one of the top-selling Swedish newspapers, Aftonbladet. Would the Swedish authorities be expected to cane its media editors for publishing Volk’s caricatures, the news portal mused.