'Fire your Indonesian maid' advert sparks row with Malaysia

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Indonesian domestic maids train in Jakarta (file image)Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Indonesians are employed as domestic helpers in countries across South East Asia

Indonesia has formally complained to Malaysia over an advert for a robot vacuum cleaner which told consumers to "Fire your Indonesian maid now".

Indonesia said the advert was "very disturbing to the feeling of the people and nation".

The treatment of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian domestic workers in Malaysia has been a repeated source of tension between the two countries.

The row comes as President Joko Widodo is due to begin a visit to Malaysia.

The original advert for RoboVac - showing a white man relaxing in a chair with the vacuum cleaner nearby - has been taken down online, but had been widely shared on social media, generating complaints from Indonesians.

Indonesian Ambassador Herman Prayitno called on Malaysia to ban the advert altogether, and said Indonesia was considering legal action against the company.

There have been several reports of abuse of Indonesian domestic staff in Malaysia, prompting Indonesia to ban its citizens from taking such jobs altogether in June 2009.

The ban was revoked after the countries reached a deal to improve working conditions, including one guaranteed day off each week and stopping employers from holding employees passports.

The issue is expected to come up in talks between President Widodo - known as Jokowi - and Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday.

It is Mr Widodo's first official visit to Malaysia since taking office last year.