Malaysian Armed Forces
Malaysia's Armed Forces [Angkatan Tentera Malaysia - ATM] are responsible for the protection of the country against internal and external threats. They serve in a wide variety of situations such as assisting civil authorities in addressing domestics threats, maintaining public security, providing aid following the onset of natural disasters, and assisting in national development programs. The Malaysian Armed Forces is comprised of three branches of service:
- The Malaysian Army (RMA) is responsible for the safeguarding of the nation against land-based threats.
- The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) protects Malaysia's coastlines, territorial waters, and economic zones from potential trespass or illegal activity.
- The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) maintains and operates a capability that is ready and able to project aerospace power to secure Malaysia's airspace and protect her national interests.
As of 2003 ATM had a strength of 118,000 personnel and this is small compared to Thailand (225,000 personnel), Indonesia (343,000) and Singapore (70,000 regulars and 250,000 reservists). Malaysia's military spending under 2005 estimates is 2.03% of the GDP. ATM's modernisation was to attain Minimum Deterrent Capability (MDC) to defend the country from outside attacks because the ATM had just switched from counter-insurgency warfare to modern warfare. Foreign observers estimated that in 2005 active-duty armed forces personnel totaled 110,000: 80,000 in the Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia), 15,000 in the Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia), and 15,000 in the Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia,). There were also 51,600 reserves—50,000 in the army, 1,000 in the navy, and 600 in the air force.
The role of the military in the national life of Malaysia has been apolitical when compared with other developing countries or with many of its neighboring states. In Malaysia the armed forces were under the complete control of a civilian government that was widely accepted as legitimate by the general population, as well as by both the military leadership and rank-and-file person- nel. The distinction between civilian and military affairs was sharply drawn and firmly adhered to. Defense forces were not directly involved in politics, and any expansion into nonmilitary roles appeared improbable.
Some parties were shocked by Armed Forces chief Jeneral Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Zainal's statement on 09 September 2008 where he had urged the government to take action on those who stoked racial sentiments. His statement was seen as if the military, which was always neutral, was beginning to interfere with the country's political affairs. In many countries, including within ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the military is heavily involved in the country's administration and can determine the rise and fall of public administration. Denying such perception, Abdul Aziz explained that there was no bad intention when making the statement.
In 2009 Malaysia's armed forces have increased their involvement in Lebanon by formally agreeing to become a military supplier to Lebanon, and by sustaining a UN-sponsored peace-keeping force there. According to Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Al-Murr, Malaysia has been listed as a supplier of non-offensive weaponry and equipment for Lebanon's military modernisation programme for 2010 because the weapons Malaysia produced were tested and found appropriate for the Lebanese military. The 750 member Malaysian Contingent (MALCON) in Lebanon for a peace-keeping mission under the United Nations Interim Forces (Unifil) is expected to play a more prominent role after being accorded Battalion status (MALBATT). With the endorsement, the Malaysian Contingent (MALCON) would now be known as the Malaysian Battalion (MALBATT) with Col. Hashim Aman Shah becoming the first commander of MALBATT in Lebanon. Meanwhile, MALCON will be given a bigger area to monitor in Lebanon, expanding from 40 square kilometres to 93 square kilometres. Unifil West Sector deputy commander Col. Philip Chorrone, the one who formalised the new status for the Malaysian contingent at 2-45 army camp in At-Tiri, said Malaysian forces play an important role in the peace-keeping mission at the Israel border because Lebanese locals were not intimidated by their presence. Malaysia became a part of the UNIFIL peace-keeping mission after the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1701 intended to resolve the Israel-Lebanon conflict after Israeli forces attacked Hezbollah militants in 2006.
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