Malaysian authorities have admitted sending 66 teenage boys thought to be gay to a camp to learn “masculine behaviour”.

An official from Terengganu state said the boys, aged between 13 and 17, were identified by teachers as having effeminate mannerisms.

This week, they are being sent on a four-day “self-development course” in the hope of dissuading them from being gay or transgender.

State education director Razali Daud told The Associated Press that the camp was designed “to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return. Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future.”

He added: “We can’t force the boys to change, but we want them to know what their choices are in life. Some effeminate boys end up as a transvestite or a homosexual, but we want to do our best to limit this.”

Officials said the boys were invited to the camp and were not compelled to go.

Malaysia punishes homosexuality with up to 20 years in prison, although this is not always enforced. Cross-dressing is sometimes punished.