Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 24.0 million (9.3 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 104,000
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 17
Voting age: 21
Optional Protocol: not signed
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182

It was not known how many under-18s were serving in the armed forces.


Scores of suspected Islamists, as well as opposition activists were arrested between 2001 and 2003 under the Internal Security Act, which allows for detention without trial which is renewable indefinitely. Opposition figures, journalists, students and others had their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly curtailed through the selective application of a range of restrictive laws. Malaysia retains the death penalty and at least 17 people were sentenced to death between 2002 and 2004.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

The constitution states that "All forms of forced labour are prohibited, but Parliament may by law provide for compulsory service for national purposes" (Article 6).2 There is no conscription and the minimum age for voluntary recruitment is 17.3

Compulsory national service was introduced in 2003 for 18-year-old men and women under a new National Service Training Act. The first three-month training program began in February 2004, and consisted of military-style instruction, outdoor activities and community service.4 The Defence Minister said the program aimed at promoting national integration and did not involve military training or service in the armed forces. Those who refused to join up faced fines, a maximum jail term of six months or both.5

Military training and military schools

Applicants to the Malaysian Military Academy must be between 17 and 20 years old. They sign an agreement to serve in the armed forces for ten years on completion of their studies.6

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 Constitution,

3 Malaysia Military Academy,

4 Reme Ahmad, "Malaysia to make NS a must", Straits Times interactive, 13 November 2003,; J. Kent, "Malaysian youth face call-up", BBC, 8 December 2003,

5 "Malaysia's national service not like Singapore's: Najib", Straits Times interactive, 29 June 2003,

6 Malaysian Military Academy, op. cit.


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