Note that the caning has not started yet -- the prisoner's buttocks remain unmarked at this point. This might indicate that we are seeing only a reconstruction. It would be more convincingly "the real thing" if the picture had been taken after some strokes had already been administered. But one could well imagine that the operatives, while prepared to pose for a photo before starting, might want the photographer and his equipment out of the way before getting down to the business in hand. On balance, I think this could well be the real thing.
The Royal Malaysian Navy's five naval stations were originally built on outlying atolls, with the most developed Station Lima now expanded to a comfortably habitable naval station and also a popular diving spot in the region, in contrast with its harsh original conditions in 1983. On 21 June 1980 a claim plaque was erected on the island and three years later eighteen PASKAL men went ashore on May 1983 to build the first encampment while braving the elements. At the time, the only infrastructure available was a helipad for personnel transfer and the soldiers had to camp under the open skies on the bare reef. When the naval station proper was constructed six years later with the construction of a small living-cum-operations quarters, it was also decided that the enlarged island the atoll had become would also be developed as a tourist attraction so that the tourism potential of the island could be exploited.