1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

There is no legislation providing for conscription at present, as the 1952 National Service Act has been officially repealed. Conscription has existed in the past. (see: history)

There are no known plans to introduce conscription. In the 1990s the Malaysian armed forces have difficulties obtaining the requisite number of recruits, particularly officers. The Ministry of Defence stated in 1994 that the introduction of conscription was unlikely to happen because of 'its unfavourable economic implications'. There are plans to restructure the armed forces and to reduce the number of troops from 120,000 (as in 1995) to about 80,000 by the year 2000. [3]

There are several paramilitary forces, the most noticeable being RELA (people's volunteer corps). RELA is run by the Ministry of Interior and comprises 240,000 troops, organized at local level and receiving paramilitary training at annual camps. Recruitment into RELA is believed to be voluntary. According to 1974 regulations RELA is to recruit the nation's civilian manpower for its third line defence (the first and second line being the armed forces and various police forces) during wartime or times of emergency. [5] [6]


Noticeably few members of the Chinese community enlist for the armed forces. Less than one percent of the rank-and-file troops are ethnic Chinese, even though they constitute 27 percent of the population. [3]

2 Conscientious objection

The right to conscientious objection is not legally recognized. [4]

3 Desertion

No information available.

5 History

In 1950, when the Federation of Malaya was a British colony, the High Commissioner announced conscription measures which enabled the government to call up all male citizens aged 17 to 45 for military or police service. The 1952 National Service Act called for conscription at times of emergency. In 1954 the act was implemented, subjecting all men aged 18 to 20 to compulsory military service. In the 1950s and 1960s all males were apparently obliged to register for military service. [1] [2]

In 1957 Malaya gained independence and in 1963 it formed Malaysia with the formerly-British Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. The first and only actual call-up for military service took place in 1964. 14,000 young men were enlisted as a precautionary measure vis-a-vis Indonesia, which had launched a campaign against the establishment of Malaysia. Most of the enlisted men joined the civil defence force. [1] [2] [5]

There was much resentment in the Chinese community about military service, Chinese youths refusing to register for military service or fleeing to Hong Kong or China. This was significant because at that time resistance by communist guerrillas was strong in Malaysia. Refusal by the Chinese to perform military service inevitably suggested to the Malays that the Chinese did not identify with the Malays politically. [2]

Tensions between the Malayans and ethnic Chinese, dominant in Singapore, eventually led to the separation of Singapore in 1965.

6 Annual statistics

The armed forces are 111,500-strong - that is, 0.46 percent of the population. [6]


[1] US State Department 1970. Area Handbook for Malaysia, Washington DC. [2] Ongkili, James 1985. Nation building in Malaysia 1946-1974. Oxford University Press, Oxford. [3] Huxley, Tim and Rahman Koya 1996. 'Malaysia's armed forces in the late 1990s', in: Asian Defence Journal, 4/1996. [4] Non Violence International South East Asia 1998. Response to a CONCODOC enquiry. Bangkok, 16 January 1998. [5] Zulkarnen, Isaak 1994. 'Paramilitary forces of Southeast Asia', in: Asian Defence Journal, 2/1994. [6] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London.


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