SINGAPORE (AP) _ Lashing does not cause flesh to fly and the flogger, while he must be physically fit, need not be a martial arts expert, according to an official description Sunday of Singapore's controversial punishment.

The Singapore Straits Times, a government-controlled newspaper, ran a detailed description of caning procedure based on information released by the state Prisons Department.

The article, which included a graphic on ''How a Prisoner is Caned,'' was written to counter some accounts of lashing in Western media and allegations that it was ''barbaric.''

Caning, as it is called here, has drawn international attention following the sentencing of Michael Fay, 18, of Kettering, Ohio, to six lashes for spray-painting cars and other acts of vandalism.

Fay is also serving a four-month prison sentence. He is awaiting government action on a mercy plea that would exempt him from the lashing.

The Times quoted a Prisons Department spokesman as saying: ''The caning does not cause 'skin and flesh to fly' as alleged by critics. It may, however, leave bruises and marks.''

The unnamed spokesman said the officer meting out the punishment must be physically fit but is not required to be a martial arts expert.

The prisoner is strapped at the ankles and wrists with leather cuffs to a trestle. The bare buttocks are struck with a 4-foot-long, 1/2 -inch-thick rattan cane soaked in water and treated with antiseptic.

Present at the caning is the prison superintendent and a doctor, who examines the prisoner before, during and after the caning and treats the prisoner with an antiseptic solution.

''Any prisoner who is found to be unfit will not be caned. Similarly, if the doctor is of the opinion that the prisoner is unable to continue to be caned, he will order it to be stopped immediately,'' the spokesman said.

Should Fay lose his appeal, his only chance to avoid the lash would be on medical grounds. Defense attorneys submitted two psychiatric reports during his March trial showing that he suffers from attention deficit disorder, which contributes to disruptive behavior.

The article did not mention other earlier official accounts which noted that lashing splits the skin and leaves the buttocks bloodied. Recovery takes from three weeks to a month and the scars are sometimes permanent.

The Times devoted a full page to ''the Michael Fay saga,'' and highlighted a recent story in New York Newsday, which ran an eyewitness account of a public caning in Singapore by an American martial arts center owner.

There is no public caning in Singapore. The newspaper has since published a retraction.

The Times also quoted a government official as saying that Singaporeans should ''exercise care when travelling to the U.S..'' Some Singaporeans have been concerned about encounters with Americans angry about Fay's sentence.