Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Singapore

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Singapore, 2001, available at: [accessed 1 June 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.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 3,522,000
    – under-18s: 914,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 60,500
    – reserves: 213,800
    – paramilitary: 108,000+ active
  • Compulsory recruitment age: 18
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 16 ½
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government armed forces – about 300 per annum under-18 and less than 2% of servicemen
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 7 September 2000; does not support "straight-18" principle
  • Other treaties ratified: GC; CRC
  • There are under-18s in government armed forces as voluntary recruits are accepted from the age of 16 ½.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Conscription is practised in Singapore. According to the Enlistment Act of 1 August 1970, a "person subject to this Act means a person who is a citizen of Singapore or a permanent resident thereof and who is not less than 16½ years of age and not more than 40 years of age."1703 Persons from the age of 16½ years are required to report for registration, fitness and medical examination for the purposes of service under the Act.1704 However, only persons of 18 years are liable to perform military service. Section 10(1) of the Enlistment Act states that "Subject to the provisions of this Act, the proper authority may by notice require a person subject to this Act not below the age of 18 years to report for enlistment for national service."1705 National Service liability is for 2 or 2½ years depending on the rank attained.1706

The Singapore Armed Forces (Volunteers) Regulations allow a person "who is not less than 16 years and 6 months of age" to be enlisted as a volunteer under the "Voluntary Early Enlistment Scheme" (VEES).1707 Enlistment intake normally takes effect six months after the application.1708 In addition, Section 19 (1) of the Enlistment Act states: "Any person may apply to the proper authority to be enlisted for regular service in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) established under the Singapore Armed Forces Act." Under the 1990 Enlistment Regulations, Section 14: "(1) The proper authority may in special cases permit any person below the age of 18 years to apply to be enlisted in regular service. (2) Consent to the application shall be given in writing by the parent or guardian of that person." No minimum age is specified in the law. According to the Singaporean Permanent Mission to the UN, however, administratively, only those above the age of 16½ years are allowed to enlist into regular service.1709

Section 16 of the Enlistment Act states: "The President may, by proclamation, where the interests of Singapore so require, empower the proper authority to call out persons liable to render full-time service, operationally ready national service or regular service for mobilised service." Under Section 10 (1) of Singapore's Enlistment Act, a "person liable to render full-time service" shall not be under 18. Hence, those who are 18 and above, as well as operationally ready soldiers (including under-18 volunteers), can be mobilised in an emergency.1710

In case of doubt as to the age of the applicant or conscript, according to Section 30 of the Enlistment Act, "[f]or the purpose of calculation of age under this Act, the following provisions shall apply:

(a) where the month in which a person was born is not entered in his identity card, he shall be deemed to be born on 1st July;

(b) where the day of the month on which a person was born is not entered in his identity card he shall be deemed to be born on the first day of the month; and

(c) where the year in which a person was born is not entered in his identity card, the proper authority may order him to undergo medical examinations and produce evidence in respect of his age and shall decide on his year of birth."

Training and organising the population to respond at times of emergency is the function of Civil Defence. The civil defence force is a paramilitary force and has units in every constituency. It is 105,000-strong, most of its members being volunteers. In peacetime, civil defence force members are trained in emergency services along with military training.1711

There is no alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors. At least 32 conscientious objectors, all Jehovah's Witnesses, were imprisoned in the course of 1999 according to Amnesty International.1712

Child Recruitment

According to official figures, the average number of servicemen between 16½ years and 18 years of age enlisted each year for both National Service and Regular Service in the last two years is about 300. Personnel enlisted between the ages of 16½ years and 18 years form less than 2 per cent of all personnel enlisted in the SAF for both National Service and Regular Service.1713 According to officials, Singapore does not have "under-aged soldiers, i.e. soldiers below the minimum age of 15 years as stipulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child."1714

The SAF provide children with the possibility to study from the age of 16½ years. The "Learn-As-You-Earn Scheme" (LAYE Scheme) allows students who want to pursue a career as Combat Specialist to take their GCE 'O' Level in the Army. This Scheme involves nine months of academic study as well as basic military training. Students in the LAYE Scheme serve a seven-year contract as Combat Specialist, which includes the nine month study period and 2½ years of national service.1715 LAYE trainees are considered part of the military. According to official sources, about 80 LAYE trainees were enlisted for the year 1998.1716

Only those candidates who perform outstandingly under this scheme are admitted to the Officer Cadet School (OCS). The OCS, created in 1966, comes under the SAFTI – Military Institute. The school oversees a total of about 1,200 officers cadets at any time. The minimum age required for entry is also 16½ years. Since 1 April 1998, the Singapore Armed Forces has no longer required all regular officers to serve their contracts.1717

Singaporean Armed Forces have contributed to UN peacekeeping duties in East Timor (UNTAET), Ethiopia/Eritrea (UNMEE) and Iraq/Kuwait (UNIKOM).1718


International Standards

Singapore signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 7 September 2000 but does not uphold the "straight-18" position.

1703 Enlistment Act, 1 August 1970, Section 2.

1704 Enlistment Act, 1 August 1970, Section 3.

1705 See also official web site of the Ministry of Defence,; Brett and McCallin op. cit.; Oehlers, A.L., "Singaporean Youth in the Nineties", Asean Forum, International Quarterly for Asian Studies, Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2/5/99.

1706 Enlistment Act, 1 August 1970, Section 12.

1707 Singapore Armed Forces (Volunteers) Regulations, Section 4, paragraph 1; see also communication from the Permanent Mission of Singapore to CSC, 25/2/00.


1709 Permanent Mission of Singapore, 25/2/00, op. cit.

1710 Information provided by Permanent Mission of Singapore on 3/7/00.

1711 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

1712 AI Report 2000.

1713 Ibid.

1714 Permanent Mission of Singapore, 25/2/00 op. cit.

1715 Ibid.

1716 Ibid.

1717 Permanent Mission of Singapore, 7/00, op. cit.; also


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