gained her independence from Britain on the 31st of August 1957.
Barely three years later in July 1960, Malaysia dispatched the
first group of Malaysian troops to serve as peacekeepers with
the United Nations Operations in Congo (UNOC). From July 1960
until June 1964, a total of 3,734 Malaysian troops served with
UNOC. This tour of duty at the nascent stage of the country's
independence is an important event in the annals of the Malaysian
Armed Forces (MAF) and as well as in the history of Malaysia.
The significance of Malaysia's, and in particular the MAF's, early
involvement in peacekeeping operations shows our belief in the
United Nations (UN) system and in the settling of disputes and
conflicts via means as stipulated in the UN Charter. Since then,
Malaysia has dispatched more than twenty thousand peacekeeping
troops and more than one thousand military observers and staff
officers to more than 29 peacekeeping missions worldwide.
Why and When?
involvement in peacekeeping has always received the full support
of the Malaysian people. Partly, this is due to the fact that
many Malaysians themselves have suffered from the effects of armed
communist insurgents from 1948 until 1960. Following that period
was a second emergency when communist militants staged another
uprising beginning in 1972 and continuing until 1989 when they
formally surrendered. After 29 years of protracted acts of terrorism
by the communist insurgents, Malaysians in general appreciate
the peace and stability that they are now enjoying. It is thus
not surprising if the people of Malaysia continuously support
MAF's peacekeeping efforts to bring peace to those unfortunate
victims of conflicts.
major factor that facilitates MAF's numerous involvements in peacekeeping,
for the most part without question, by both the people and the
government is the very clear and precise peacekeeping policy that
has been adopted. Among other things, the policy states that Malaysia's
peacekeeping involvements must support its national interests,
foreign policy and global peace and security. The other factors
to be considered in each situation are:
Will it improve Malaysia's international image?
Does it fulfill Malaysia's national strategic interests?
(3) How does it affect the domestic audience?
(4) Is the mandate clear, realistic and achievable?
(5) What are the concurrent peacekeeping and peace building efforts?
(6) Is impartiality an issue?
(7) Is there consent and cooperation by locals and belligerents?
(8) Is there an end-state for the mandate and what is it?
a glance, it may seem that Malaysia's peacekeeping policy is quite
similar to that of many other nations of the world. However, it
is worthwhile to note that Malaysia has included the phrase "consent
and cooperation by locals and belligerents" into her peacekeeping
policy. What this means is that Malaysia "would prefer"
to participate in Chapter 6 (peacekeeping) rather than taking
part in Chapter 7 (peace enforcement) operations. The two key
words here are "would prefer"; they are not "would
only"! This preference has caused some confusion to various
parties, including certain sections of MAF's officers, who believe
that Malaysia would not participate in any peace enforcement operations.
MAF's involvement in Bosnia Herzegovina (UNPROFOR, IFOR and SFOR)
and Somalia (UNOSOM II), all of which were Chapter 7 operations,
is a testimony to a decision process that carefully weighs the
merits of a particular situation.
Training Center is Born
1993 and 1994, when Malaysia simultaneously deployed its troops
to Somalia and Bosnia Herzegovina for peacekeeping duties, she
was one of the top ten biggest Troop Contributing Countries, out
of a total of 185 member states of the United Nations at that
time. Realizing that Malaysia was a major participant in global
peacekeeping efforts, and to further enhance and equip her peacekeepers,
the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Center (MPTC) was officially
established on the 19th of January 1996. MPTC serves as the national
center but aspires to be the 'Center of Excellence' for peacekeeping
training for the South East Asia region. The main role of MPTC
is to prepare personnel of the Armed Forces, civilian police and
civilians (including Non-Governmental Organizations) for operational
duties in peacekeeping missions.
importance of peacekeeping training can never be over-emphasized.
Personally, I am a strong believer in this rather common saying
among trainers of peacekeepers and military observers, which goes
"A good military officer does not necessarily make a good
military observer, and a good soldier does not necessarily make
a good peacekeeper." At a glance, this statement may sound
rather simplistic. Indeed, a military officer or a soldier who,
throughout his service life, has been trained to kill or be killed
may not necessarily be the best person to make peace among belligerents
or warring factions. It is for this reason that the MAF requires
all of its officers and troops selected for peacekeeping duties
to undergo compulsory peacekeeping training at MPTC. The primary
aim of peacekeeping training is to transform the mind-set of these
officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen from that of warriors to
its establishment in January 1996, MPTC has conducted a total
of 13 UN Military Observers Courses, 3 UN Logistics Courses and
9 Pre-Deployment Courses, for both local and foreign participants.
Countries that have sent participants to MPTC courses are Australia,
Bangladesh, Brunei, Canada, France, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar,
New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sudan, Thailand,
United States and Vietnam. Currently, Malaysia has not deployed
armed peacekeepers (Malaysian Battalion or MALBATT) to any peacekeeping
mission but instead has dispatched 148 Military Observers and
Staff Officers to 7 active missions. The MAF also deploys 20 interpreters
at any one time to East Timor (UNTAET/UNMISET) for a 6-month tour
of duty. Due to this development, the current core business of
MPTC is the conduct of the Military Observers and Pre-Deployment
courses for Staff Officers and Interpreters.
Criteria for the United Nations Military Observers (UNMO) Course
course participants are being assessed by MPTC's Directing Staff
from the first day they report for the course until the last day
when they leave. Participants are not only assessed by the Course
Manager but by all Directing Staff whom they come into contact
with. This rather stringent policy is due to the fact that graduates
of the UNMO course graded "Highly Suitable" or "Suitable"
will most likely represent MAF as the country's peacekeeping ambassadors.
Based on the philosophy that "Good soldiers do not necessarily
make good peacekeepers" and "Good officers do not necessarily
make good military observers," MPTC aspires to ensure that
only the best participants are finally deployed as UN military
overall disposition of participants as reflected in the Final
Individual Report states that they are either "Highly Suitable",
"Suitable", "May be Suitable", or "Not
Suitable" for UN military observers duties.
than the results of quizzes and tests carried out during the course,
each participant is assessed the ten traits as follows:
ten traits are tabulated into a matrix where each trait is assigned
a number on a scale of 1 to 10. The average of the ten traits
and the results of quizzes and tests conducted then determine
the participant's overall standing in the course and their final
disposition. Out of the ten traits mentioned, "General Attitude"
is weighted the heaviest. This means that a participant may excel
in all the other 9 traits but if assessed as having the "wrong"
attitude, he or she will not be recommended for deployment as
a military observer.
to Establishing a Fledgling Center
the number of courses conducted by MPTC thus far, there are numerous
challenges faced by this center in trying to fulfill its roles
and tasks. MPTC is currently co-located with the Malaysian Army
Institute of Management in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.
This temporary complex houses the center's administration office
and almost nothing else. The building is a renovated servant quarters
of a Pre-War British officer's bungalow! The construction of MPTC's
new complex began in January 2000, but work stopped in March 2000
when a stop-work order was issued. This order was issued due to
legal tussles between the Ministry of Defence and owners of an
adjacent property to this new complex, which happens to be a 5-star
beach golf resort.
on the new complex has re-started but completion will occur, at
the earliest, in mid-year of 2004. Until then, all courses run
by MPTC have to be contracted out to hotels or resorts in the
vicinity of Port Dickson. The contract is only for course participants'
accommodation, food and classrooms. While other training support
facilities and equipment, such as computers inclusive of LAN and
Internet services, 4x4 vehicles for Field Troop Exercise (FTX)
and other office support equipment have to be contracted out separately.
This manifestly bureaucratic procedure must be adhered to, in
compliance with regulations as stipulated in the Malaysian Treasury
Instructions. Out-sourcing of these very basic needs is the norm
rather than the exception at MPTC. However, course participants
are not complaining: currently most courses are conducted at the
Port Dickson Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole golf resort!
is also an urgent need to upgrade MPTC's resource center and develop
the various fields of expertise in peacekeeping among the center's
instructors. In this regard, we are very grateful to the Center
of Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance
(COE) and the Norwegian Defence International Center for providing
us with the various subject matter experts in the conduct of the
Military Observers and UN Logistics Course. With all the shortcomings
mentioned earlier, we are proud to say that MPTC has made great
strides since its inception and it now has the potential to become
the premier peacekeeping training center in the region, once the
new complex is up and running.
to Participating in Peace Support Operations
contributions towards the UN peacekeeping efforts are rather substantial,
considering that it is a small, developing country. In line with
the country's peacekeeping policy, Malaysia has benefited greatly
by being traditionally active in global peacekeeping efforts.
With the surrender of the armed communist militants in 1989, the
MAF realized that tours of duty with peacekeeping missions would
provide some of the best "real-life" training possible
for its troops. It would be prohibitively exorbitant to simulate
a full-scale failed-state-in-the-grip-of-a-civil-war scenario
for its troops to train in.
also enables MAF officers and soldiers to actively participate
in multi-lateral military operations. Other than the Five Power
Defence Arrangement which groups Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand,
Singapore and the United Kingdom for the defense of Malaysia and
Singapore, Malaysia is not a signatory to any other multilateral
military pact. Thus, participation in peacekeeping missions is
the only other avenue available for the Malaysian troops to gain
also believes that peacekeeping and especially peacekeeping training
contribute significantly to Confidence Building Measures (CBM)
for the region. The Asia-Pacific Peace Operations Capacity Building
Program pioneered by COE is one such vehicle that has significantly
contributed to CBM in South East Asia by getting all of the regional
militaries to meet, discuss and get acquainted in the name of
global peace. One event in this series, the Asia Pacific Peacekeeping
Seminar Game, was hosted by Malaysia in April 2001. It is worthwhile
to note that there is no other forum currently in existence where
mid-level military officers from all countries in the region could
meet and work together under one roof. Since the program has been
established, it is important that the "brains" behind
it revisit the objectives set for the program more than two years
ago, and perhaps transform it into a more workable and practical
forum where regional countries could play more prominent roles
in the planning and execution of future events. With the right
marketing strategy, I am quite sure that South East Asian countries
would be more than happy to take responsibility, and make the
program a truly regional effort.
long as there are nation states, there will be future conflicts,
whether we like it or not. With the end of the Cold War, hopes
were high that the world would enter into an era of lasting peace,
but that did not materialize. Instead, the number of conflicts
and civil wars increased substantially. Likewise, the need for
peacekeeping will most likely increase rather than decrease in
the future. Malaysia, and in particular, the MAF can look forward
to participate in many more peacekeeping missions in the years
learn more about Malaysia's participation in peacekeeping operations,
visit their website at http://maf.mod.gov.my/english/atm/pengaman1.html