Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 08:28 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Singapore

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Singapore, 2004, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Republic of Singapore

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 4.2 million (1.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 72,500
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 16½
Voting age: 21
Optional Protocol: signed 7 September 2000
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ILO 182

Recruits could volunteer for national service or regular service in the armed forces from the age of 16½ years.


General elections in November 2001 brought a landslide victory for the governing People's Action Party, which has dominated politics in Singapore since independence in 1959, and which secured all but two of the 84 seats in the legislature. The government continued its crackdown on individuals alleged to be linked to "terrorist" organizations. In 2002, 31 men alleged to be linked to Jemaah Islamiah were ordered to be detained without charge or trial for two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA); five others were released conditionally. Singapore has one of the highest execution rates in the world relative to its population. The death penalty is mandatory for murder, drug trafficking, treason and certain firearms offences. More than 400 people are known to have been executed between 1991 and 2003. The majority of them are believed to have been convicted of drug trafficking offences.1


National recruitment legislation

Under the 1970 Enlistment Act, citizens and permanent residents between the ages of 16 and 40 years may be called upon "from time to time" to register for national service and to have a fitness examination. Only those aged 18 and over are liable to perform military service. Full-time service is for two to two and a half years, according to rank attained during service.2 Individuals over the age of 16½ may volunteer under the Voluntary Early Enlistment Scheme. Parental consent is required and the volunteers must undergo a series of tests to prove they are medically and physically fit for service.3

The Enlistment Act also permits "any person" to apply for regular service in the armed forces. The 1990 Enlistment Regulations specify that voluntary recruits under the age of 18 must have parental consent.4 No minimum age is specified in the act or the regulations, although "administratively, only those above the age of 16½ are allowed to be enlisted".5 The Enlistment Act allows for regular service recruits to be called for active service by presidential proclamation "where the interests of Singapore so require" (Part IV), in theory including under-18s.

Military training and military schools

As of 2000, trainees over the age of 16½ could enlist in the Learn as You Earn Scheme (LAYE), which provided opportunities for voluntary recruits to improve their secondary school qualifications. LAYE trainees were considered part of the military.6 It was not known if this practice continued in 2004.


Singapore does not support a "straight-18" position for military recruitment. In October 2003, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Singapore ratify the Optional Protocol.7

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 Enlistment Act 1970 (Chapter 93), at Ministry of Defence, (Defence Management Group, Legal Services, Legislation).

3 Ministry of Defence, sg/Mindef/Static/NSRegistration/Pdf/VEES.pdf. 4 Singapore Armed Forces (Volunteers) Regulations, 1990.

5 Permanent Mission of the Republic of Singapore to the UN at Geneva, Letter to Child Soldiers Coalition, 25 February 2000.

6 Permanent Mission of Singapore to the UN at Geneva, op. cit.

7 UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations: Singapore, UN Doc. CRC/C/15/Add. 220, 27 October 2003,

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