Under new immigration rules, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta cancelled visa on arrival (VOA) policies for Iranians, according to local media reports.
The two countries changed visa requirements to prevent Iranians from using Malaysia or Indonesia as transit points for people-smuggling-- and to stem Iranian involvement in both drug smuggling and illegal drug use on their territory, officials said.
Malaysia announced the new policy in October. Indonesia announced its new visa rules for Iranians back in July.
Iranians now must apply for a visa ahead of time, and the entry document would only be valid for a 14-day stay in Malaysia, The Star Online quoted Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying October 29th.
"We are committed towards Australia's request to ensure those who come from Iran and Syria do not use Malaysia as a transit point to enter Australia illegally," he told reporters.
"Our national interest"
Jakarta's decision was mainly motivated by a need to combat international drug-trafficking in the country as in recent years, foreign drug dealers arrested in Indonesia were primarily Iranian, anti-narcotics officials said.
"Many Iranians are misusing such visa facilities. They did not come here for tourism purposes, but used Indonesia as a transit point before seeking asylum in Australia and for drug smuggling," Maryoto Hadi, a spokesman for the Law and Human Rights Ministry, was quoted as saying in The Jakarta Post.
"Following the recent arrests of Iranian citizens by BNN officers, we renewed our request to the Law and Human Rights Ministry to review the VOA facility for Iranians.," National Narcotics Agency (BNN) spokesman Sumirat Dwiyanto told the paper. "It has finally approved it and we greatly appreciate the decision."
Indonesia considered concerns about Australian asylum seekers from Iran transiting through the archipelago, but this was not the main factor that drove the decision, according to Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin.
"The main consideration is our national interest, even though keeping good relations with our neighbouring country is also part of our national interest," Amir was quoted as saying.
Iranians in Malaysia: Wearing out their welcome?
Malaysia has a sizable Iranian émigré population. According to the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, the Iranian diaspora in Malaysia ranges between 70,000 and 100,000.
They are drawn by its relative affordability, even though Malaysia permits Tehran's intelligence service to monitor Iranian expatriate activities in the country, according to the Institute.
Yet quite a few Iranians have been implicated in drug trafficking cases in Malaysia, to the point the issue reportedly strained diplomatic relations between Kuala Lumpur and Tehran.
Additionally, in February 2012 Iranian Masoud Sedaghatzadeh was arrested for involvement in a botched terror attack in Thailand for which two other Iranians have been charged.
Bi-lateral ties tensed in October when Malaysia rebuffed a warning from Tehran not to sentence two Iranian women to death on drug trafficking charges, AFP reported.
In a statement to AFP, Malaysia's Foreign Ministry said that while it valued relations with Iran it could not tolerate "illegal activities which are detrimental to Malaysia's image and security."