Country report and updates: Indonesia

Last revision: 26 May 1998
26 May 1998

1 Conscription

conscription exists

Conscription is enshrined in the 1945 Constitution. According to art. 179: "The Federal Law enacts regulations on the right and duty of all able citizens to assist in the maintenance of the independence of the Republic (...) and in the defence of the territory. The Federal Law regulates the exercise of this right and duty and determines the exceptions thereof." Art. 180, par.1 reads: "The armed forces of the republic (...) are entrusted with the protection of the interests of the Republic. (...) they shall consist of volunteers and conscripts. 2. The Federal Law stipulates compulsory service in the armed forces." [4]

Legislation providing for conscription has existed ever since the achievement of independence in 1948. The present legal basis of conscription is laid down in the 1988 Law on Conditions of Military Service, according to which Indonesians may be conscripted into the regular armed forces for two years and into the reserve forces for five years. [1]

Conscription has, however, never been enforced in general apart from certain forms of selective conscription (see: military service). Voluntary applications are usually sufficient to obtain the requisite number of recruits, as in Indonesia a military career is widely regarded as a step on the social ladder. [2]

Separate legislation deals with the mobilisation of citizens war time and at times of national emergency. The 1997 Law on Mobilisation and Demobilisation authorises the President, as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, to conscript citizens aged 18 to 50 in war time, into both the army and the reserve forces. The law stipulates that conscription may be introduced only after a formal declaration of war. In 1982 a law had been passed - the law on the basic guidelines for the state's defence and security - which had called for such a law on mobilisation. [3] [5]

The 1997 law is not believed to reflect a changed perception of external threat by the Indonesian government. According to a government spokesperson, the law was passed to enable the government to deal with all kinds of emergencies, including natural disasters. [5]

The introduction of the law was also thought to reflect President Suharto's anticipation of an internal crisis, widespread ethnic violence or the possibility of elements within the army turning against him. Such foresight turned out to be well-founded, given the 1998 unrest in Indonesia and Suharto's subsequent fall from power. [7]

Indonesian defence policy is based on the concept of total defence (Hankam Rata), which requires every citizen to play a part in national defence. This concept was already formulated in the early years of independence, but practical measures to implement it have only been partially adopted. In theory, Hankam Rata is a people's defence system providing the country with a trained militia present nearly everywhere. Several paramilitary forces exist, such as Kamra (people's security) units, local militia whose 1,500,000 members are thought to receive three weeks' annual training. [3]

Recruitment methods of these forces are not known.

military service

Although there are no general call-ups for military service, there may be selective conscription of those possessing special skills. [1]

According to one source, some people with special skills (such as doctors) have occasionally been conscripted for short-term service military service. [6]

Another source suggests that young men who have reached a certain level of education (again, such as doctors, are expected to perform military service. [2]

No further details are known.

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

3 Draft evasion and desertion

No information available.

5 History

In 1958 a law was passed requiring military service by all men aged 18 to 40. In the 1950s and 1960s students were reportedly conscripted into the armed forces and civil servants were believed to be liable to undergo military training. [4]

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces comprise some 461,000 troops - which is 0.23 percent of the population. Every year about 2,070,000 young men reach the age of 18. The number of conscripts in the armed forces is not known. [3]


[1] Lowry, Bob 1993. Indonesian defense policy and the Indonesian armed forces. Strategic and Defence Studies Centre Research School of Pacific Studies, Canberra, Australia. [2] Société I3c 1991. Military Powers Encyclopedia, Volume 6. Paris. [3] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997-98. ISS, London. [4] Prasad, D., T. Smythe 1968. Conscription: a world survey, compulsory military service and resistance to it. War Resisters' International, London. [5] 'Suharto gets power to mobilise citizens', in: Straits Times, 9 September 1997. [6] US Library of Congress 1992. Indonesia - a country study. Area Handbooks, State Department, Washington DC. [7] War Resisters International, 10 September 1997.

Recent stories on conscientious objection: Indonesia

03 Sep 2010

On 16 August, the Jakarta Post reported on a new draft law on a national military reserve, which is presently being debated in the Indonesian parliament. It is not clear if this is in fact the same draft that had been presented in 2007 (see CO-Update No 34, November 2007). Back then, the proposed revision to the Reserve Forces Act (RUU Komponen Cadangan) put forward by the Department of Defence contained clauses that will make Army training or service compulsory (wajib militer, wamil) for all citizens aged 18-45.

01 Nov 2007

A debate about conscription also started in Indonesia - but there conscription is to be introduced, not abolished. The proposed revision to the Reserve Forces Act (RUU Komponen Cadangan), put forward by the Department of Defence and which will go

before the parliament in early 2008, contains clauses that will make Army training or service compulsory (wajib militer, wamil) for all citizens aged 18-45.

Conscription is enshrined in the 1945 Constitution. According to art.