Malaysian authorities raided Swatch stores across the country to seize 164 rainbow-coloured watches from its Pride collection.

LGBTQ+ people face growing intolerance from conservatives in the region, where same-sex relationships are punishable by caning under Islamic law and 20 years in prison for sodomy under colonial-era civil laws – though enforcement of these is rare.

Jejaka, a Malaysian gay rights organisation, told This Week in Asia that the raids show “a deeply unsettling level of intolerance” by the government.

“As a society, we need to ask ourselves: what kind of message are we sending when a rainbow, a universal symbol of hope, becomes controversial?” its Deputy President, Dhia Rezki Rohaizad added.

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The watches come in a choice of six colours that match the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, with two rainbow loops on their straps.

Raids by Home Ministry agents occurred from 13 to 14 May across 11 Swatch outlets in major shopping centres.

The items were seized because they “bore LGBT connotations” and were worth a total of $14,000 (£11,280), the Swiss watchmaker confirmed.

Notice for the raids was approved under Malaysia’s Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 as the collection was deemed to be morally harmful.

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“We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colours and having a message of peace and love could be harmful,” said Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek Jr. in a statement.

“We wonder how the home ministry’s enforcement unit will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that are showing up thousand times a year in the sky of Malaysia.”

Swatch said it will continue selling its Pride watches and that its legal team is currently looking into the incident.