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Department Seal




Malaysia is a federation of 13 states with a parliamentary 
system of government based on periodic multiparty elections but 
in which the ruling National Front coalition has held power 
since 1957.  Opposition parties actively contest elections, 
although they hold only 21 percent of the seats in the Federal 
Parliament; an opposition party currently controls one state 
government.  There is political competition within the United 
Malays National Organization (UMNO), the major party in the 

The Government asserts that internal security laws allowing 
preventive detention (and arrests under such laws) are required 
owing to Malaysia's "sensitive social balance," the need to 
ensure that the peace and stability of the country are 
protected, and concern about endemic narcotics trafficking 
problems.  However, the Government also has used these laws 
more broadly to detain persons when available evidence is 
insufficient to bring formal charges under the Criminal Code, 
as well as to detain political opponents.  The existence of 
these laws serves to inhibit effective opposition to government 

The Royal Malaysian Police has primary responsibility for 
internal security matters; it reports to the Minister of Home 
Affairs.  Prime Minister Mahathir also holds the Home Affairs 
portfolio.  There continued to be some credible reports of 
mistreatment of prisoners and detainees by the police and 
prison officials.

Rapidly expanding exports of manufactured goods, especially in 
the electronics sector, account for much of the country's 
economic growth.  Crude oil exports and traditional commodities 
(tropical timber, palm oil, rubber) add to Malaysia's trade 
revenues.  Strong economic performance in recent years has led 
to significant reductions in poverty, improved standards of 
living, and more equal income distribution.

While there is an efficient system of justice based on common 
law principles, the Government continues arbitrarily to arrest 
and detain citizens without trial.  The Government also limits 
judicial independence and effectively restricts freedom of 
association and of the press.  These restrictions make it very 
difficult for opposition parties to compete on equal terms with 
the long-ruling governing coalition.  Domestic violence against 
women is a serious problem, which the Government is taking 
steps to address.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings by the Government or any other political organization.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances attributable to the 
Government or any other political organization.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

There continue to be instances of police officers abusing 
criminal suspects during interrogation, including strong 
psychological pressure and sometimes physical abuse.  In some 
cases, government authorities have investigated police 
officials for such abuses, but because they refuse to release 
information on the results of the investigations, it cannot be 
determined whether those responsible for such abuses are 
punished.  There were no known instances in 1994 (or in recent 
years) of police officials being tried, convicted, and 
sentenced for abuse of prisoners.

Malaysian criminal law prescribes caning as an additional 
punishment to imprisonment for those convicted of crimes such 
as narcotics possession.  Judges routinely include caning in 
sentencing those convicted of such crimes as kidnaping, rape, 
and robbery.  The caning, which is normally carried out with a 
1/2-inch thick wooden cane, commonly causes welts and sometimes 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Three laws permit the Government to detain suspects without 
judicial review or filing formal charges:  the 1960 Internal 
Security Act (ISA), the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention 
of Crime) Ordinance of 1969, and the Dangerous Drugs Act of 
1985.  The Government continued to use long-term detentions 
without trial in cases alleged to involve national security, as 
well as in narcotics trafficking and other cases.  According to 
the Home Affairs Ministry, as of December, there were 4,115 
people being detained without trial; most of those detainees 
are being held under the Dangerous Drugs Act.

Passed more than 30 years ago when there was an active 
Communist insurgency, the ISA empowers the police to hold any 
person who may act "in a manner prejudicial to the security of 
Malaysia" for up to 60 days.  According to the Government, the 
goal of the ISA is to control internal subversion, although 
there is now no serious threat to national stability in 
Malaysia.  The Government also uses the ISA against passport 
and identity card forgers, 20 of whom were being held as of 
December 20.

Security authorities sometimes wait several days after a 
detention before informing the detainee's family.  The Minister 
of Home Affairs may authorize, in writing, further indefinite 
detention for periods of up to 2 years.  Even when there are no 
formal charges, the authorities must inform detainees of the 
accusations against them and permit them to appeal to an 
advisory board for review every 6 months.  Advisory board 
decisions and recommendations, however, are not binding on the 
Home Affairs Minister, are not made public, and are often not 
shown to the detainee.  A number of ISA detainees have refused 
to participate in the review process under these circumstances.

The Home Affairs Ministry reported in December that there were 
27 ISA detainees at that time, down from 51 as of July 1993.  
The Government released approximately 27 former detainees 
subject to "imposed restricted conditions," which will be in 
effect for the balance of their detention periods.  These 
conditions limit their rights to freedom of speech, association,
and travel outside the country.

On September 2, the Government detained under the ISA nine 
members of the banned Al Arqam Islamic movement, including the 
Islamic sect's leader, Ashaari Muhammed.  The Government said 
it took these actions on the grounds that Al Arqam posed a 
threat to national security, although it presented no credible 
evidence of this.

On October 20, after 50 days in ISA detention by the Special 
Branch, Ashaari recanted his beliefs in a 2 1/2-hour 
government-televised discussion with Islamic leaders and 
confessed to propagating teachings and practices which deviated 
from true Islam.  Since founding Al Arqam in 1968, Ashaari had 
been vigorously expounding these views for over 25 years at the 
time of his recantation.  During the televised confession, 
Ashaari appeared to have lost weight, and his head and beard 
had been shaved.  Ashaari and five of his followers were freed 
on October 28 and Ashaari visited the Al Arqam commune at 
Sungai Pencala the next day to meet with his followers.  He 
told his followers that his October 20 confession had been 
"voluntary."  Ashaari remains under restricted residence, and 
his movements are limited to Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding 
state of Selangor.

In January the Government lifted restricted residence 
conditions for six persons, including the brother of the then 
chief minister of the east Malaysian state of Sabah, who had 
been detained under the ISA in 1990 and 1991 for alleged 
involvement in a secessionist plot.  They had been released in 
1993, but their movements were restricted.

Amendments to the ISA severely limit judicial review of 
detentions, contravening international standards of due 
process.  During 1994 opposition leaders and human rights 
organizations called on the Government to repeal the ISA and 
other legislation that deprive people of the right to defend 
themselves in court.  Some officials also have suggested that 
amendments are warranted, but senior government officials 
insist that the ISA in its present form continues to be 
necessary to preserve peace and harmony in a multiracial 
society, without explaining convincingly why reliance on the 
criminal law and the courts would seriously impair peace and 
harmony.  In May the Prime Minister, while not dismissing the 
possibility that some provisions of the ISA could be amended, 
said that the ISA could not be repealed as it was still needed 
under certain circumstances.

The Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 
was instituted after intercommunal riots in 1969.  Although 
Parliament regained its legislative power in 1971, the 
Government has never lifted the state of emergency declared at 
the time of the riots.  The Home Affairs Minister can issue a 
detention order for up to 2 years against a person if he deems 
it necessary to protect public order or for the "suppression of 
violence or the prevention of crimes involving violence."  The 
Home Affairs Ministry in December said there were 200 people in 
detention under the Emergency Ordinance, up from 93 people in 
1993.  Local human rights organizations accept this figure as 

Provisions of the 1985 amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act 
give the Government specific power to detain suspected drug 
traffickers.  The suspects may be held up to 39 days before the 
Home Affairs Minister must issue a detention order.  Once the 
Ministry has issued an order, the detainee is entitled to a 
habeas corpus hearing before a court.  In some instances, the 
judge may order the detainee's release.  Suspects may be held 
without charge for successive 2-year intervals, with periodic 
review by an advisory board, whose opinion is binding on the 
Home Affairs Minister.  However, the review process contains 
none of the due process rights that a defendant would have in a 
court proceeding.  As of December 20, approximately 3,888 drug 
suspects remained under detention or under restrictions 
equivalent to house arrest under this statute.  The police 
frequently rearrest suspected narcotics traffickers and 
firearms offenders under the preventive measures clauses of the 
Dangerous Drugs Act or the ISA after an acquittal in court on 
formal charges under separate provisions of those acts.

A 1989 peace agreement allows members of the Communist Party of 
Malaya (CPM) to return to Malaysia.  According to the 
Government, the agreement stipulates that they satisfy certain 
conditions, including taking a loyalty oath "to king and 
country" and renouncing the CPM in writing.  Since 1989 more 
than 650 former CPM members have applied to return to Malaysia 
under the agreement.  Sixty-six subsequently withdrew their 
applications because they objected to the conditions imposed by 
the Government on their repatriation.  In 1994, 50 to 80 former 
CPM members returned to Malaysia, including a prominent member 
of the CPM's Central Committee who returned after spending
30 years in exile.  The Government has rejected an unknown 
number of applications by former CPM members to return to 

Since December 1989, 338 former Communists and 50 dependents 
have been "rehabilitated" by the Malaysian security authorities 
and resettled in Malaysia.  This rehabilitation consists of 
detention without trial under the ISA at the Kamunting 
Detention Center in Perak state.  In addition, rehabilitated 
former CPM members who have reintegrated into Malaysian society 
are restricted to certain areas where security authorities 
watch them carefully for up to 6 years.  These rehabilitated 
persons cannot resume full participation in Malaysia's 
political life until this period of surveillance demonstrates 
to the satisfaction of the police that they have abandoned 
their former ideology.

In November former student leader Hishamuddin Rais ended
20 years of exile in England and returned to Malaysia.  
Hishamuddin was questioned by police for several days after his 
return to Malaysia and was released and issued a new identity 
card and passport.  The former student activist did not 
discount the possibility of entering national politics.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Most civil and criminal cases are fair and open.  The accused 
must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest, and 
charges must be levied within 14 days.  Defendants have the 
right to counsel, bail is available, and strict rules of 
evidence apply in court.  Defendants may appeal court decisions 
to higher courts and, in criminal cases, may also appeal for 
clemency to the King or local state rulers as appropriate.  All 
criminal trials, including murder trials, are heard by a single 
judge.  Parliament voted on December 21 to amend the Criminal 
Procedure Code by abolishing jury trials in death penalty 
cases.  Human rights organizations and the Bar Council have 
complained that they were not consulted by the Government prior 
to tabling this amendment.  The defense in both ordinary 
criminal cases and the special security cases described below 
is not entitled to a statement of evidence before the trial.

The right to a fair trial is restricted in criminal cases in 
which the Attorney General invokes the Essential (Security 
Cases) Regulations of 1975.  These regulations governing trial 
procedure normally apply only in firearms cases.  In cases 
tried under these regulations, the standards for accepting 
self-incriminating statements by defendants as evidence are 
less stringent than in normal criminal cases.  Also, the 
authorities may hold the accused for an unspecified period of 
time before making formal charges.  The Attorney General has 
the authority to invoke these regulations in other criminal 
cases if the Government determines that the crime involves 
national security considerations, but such cases are rare.

The Malaysian judiciary has traditionally been regarded by the 
public and the legal community as committed to the rule of law 
and has ruled against the Government in some politically 
sensitive cases.  However, the Government's 1988 dismissal of 
the Supreme Court Lord President and two other justices, along 
with a constitutional amendment and legislation restricting 
judicial review, has undermined judicial independence and 
strengthened executive influence over the judiciary in 
politically sensitive cases.  These developments created the 
possibility that Malaysians who might otherwise seek legal 
remedies against government actions would be reluctant to do so 
and have resulted in less willingness by the courts to 
challenge the Government's legal interpretations in politically 
sensitive cases.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

These rights are normally respected and protected by law.  
Provisions in the security legislation (see Section 1.d.), 
however, allow the police to enter and search without a warrant 
the homes of persons suspected of threatening national 
security.  Police may also confiscate evidence under these 
acts.  In some cases each year, police have used this legal 
authority to search homes and offices, seize books and papers, 
monitor conversations, and take people into custody without a 

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and 
press, some important limitations exist, and over the years the 
Government has restricted freedom of expression of media 
organizations and individuals.  The Constitution provides that 
freedom of speech may be restricted by legislation "in the 
interest of security...(or) public order."  Thus, the Sedition 
Act Amendments of 1970 prohibit public comment on issues 
defined as sensitive, such as citizenship rights for non-Malays 
and the special position of Malays in society.  The Government 
has not brought charges under the Sedition Act since 1986, when 
a trial court acquitted a former president of the Bar Council.

The Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984 contains 
important limitations on press freedom.  Domestic and foreign 
publications must apply annually to the Government for a 
permit.  The Act was amended in 1987 to make the publication of 
"malicious news" a punishable offense, expand the Government's 
power to ban or restrict publications, and prohibit court 
challenges to suspension or revocation of publication permits.  
In December the authorities detained six local leaders of the 
opposition Democratic Action Party under the Printing Presses 
Act for distributing pamphlets without permission.  The banned 
pamphlets dealt with a local land deal and compensation 
payments to residents and businesses.  Government policies 
create an atmosphere which inhibits independent journalism and 
result in self-censorship of issues government authorities 
might consider sensitive.  Government displeasure with press 
reporting is often conveyed directly to the newspaper's board 
of directors.  There have also been credible reports of efforts 
by the Government to stop reporters from pursuing stories on 
sensitive subjects.

In practice, press freedom is also limited by the fact that 
leading political figures, or companies controlled by leading 
political figures in the ruling coalition, own all the major 
newspapers and all radio and television stations.  These mass 
media provide generally laudatory, noncritical coverage of 
government officials and government policies, and give only 
limited and selective coverage to political views of the 
opposition or political rivals.  Editorial opinion in these 
mass media frequently reflects government positions on domestic 
and international issues.  Chinese-language newspapers are 
generally more free in reporting and commenting on sensitive 
political and social issues.

Despite strong political influence on the editorial decisions 
of major publications, small-circulation publications of 
opposition parties, social action groups, unions, and other 
private groups actively cover opposition parties and frequently 
print views critical of government policies.  The Government 
does retain significant influence over these publications by 
requiring annual renewal of publishing permits.  In June the 
Home Affairs Ministry revoked the publishing license of a 
popular Tamil-language tabloid, Thoothan (The Messenger), after 
the paper published an article alleging corruption on the part 
of the Malaysian-Indian Minister of Energy, Telecommunications, 
and Posts.  In May the Government threatened to review the 
publication permit of the opposition party PAS newsletter, 
Harakah, after it ran articles the Government claimed could 
disrupt national unity and harmony.  Also in May, the Home 
Affairs Ministry directed newspapers not to publish information 
about a confrontation in Penang between police and local Hindu 
worshipers who were celebrating a religious festival.  Earlier, 
in March, the Home Affairs Ministry decided not to renew the 
work permit of a Filipino correspondent for the Manila-based 
Inter Press Service because of what it described as negative 
reports on Malaysia's treatment of foreign guest workers that 
purportedly posed a threat to national security and racial 
harmony.  In August the Government seized books, publications, 
and other materials belonging to the banned Al Arqam religious 
sect and made it illegal to possess, sell, distribute, or 
display books, logos, and other printed materials prepared by 
the organization.

In June 1990, Parliament enacted legislation making the 
government-controlled Malaysian news agency (Bernama) the sole 
distributor of foreign news in Malaysia, formalizing previous 
practice.  The parliamentary opposition opposed the bill, 
arguing that it would increase government control over foreign 
news.  Although the Government has not to date used this law to 
restrict foreign news coverage or availability, in the past the 
Government has banned under separate legislation individual 
editions of foreign publications.  In 1994 the Government 
censored portions of photographs and text in issues of foreign 
newsmagazines and stopped airing the British Broadcasting 
Corporation (BBC) news programs, allegedly because the BBC's 
conditions for use would undermine Malaysia's dignity, 
according to a government spokesman.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for the rights of freedom of peaceful 
assembly and association, but there are significant 
restrictions.  These rights may be limited in the interest of 
security and public order, and the 1967 Police Act requires 
police permits for all public assemblies with the exception of 
workers on picket lines.  Spontaneous demonstrations occur 
periodically without permission, but they are limited in scope 
and generally occur with the tacit consent of the police.  In 
the east Malaysian state of Sarawak, groups of indigenous 
people have held peaceful demonstrations to protest government 
policies and actions.

In the aftermath of the intercommunal riots in 1969, the 
Government banned political rallies.  The Government has 
announced that political rallies will continue to be banned 
during national elections likely to be held in early 1995.  
While the formal ban has not been rescinded, both government 
and opposition parties have held large indoor political 
gatherings dubbed "discussion sessions."  Government and 
opposition candidates campaign actively.  There are, however, 
some restrictions on freedom of assembly during campaigns.  
During the actual campaign period, political parties submit 
lists of times and places for their "discussion groups."  
Although theoretically no police permit is required, some 
opposition discussion group meetings in past campaigns have 
been canceled for lack of a police permit.  Outside of the 
campaign period, a permit is required, with most applications 
routinely approved.

Other statutes limit the right of association, such as the 
Societies Act of 1966, under which any association of seven or 
more members must register with the Government as a society.  
The Government may refuse to register a new society or may 
impose conditions when allowing a society to register.  The 
Government also has the power to revoke the registration of an 
existing society for violations of the Act, a power it has 
selectively enforced against political opposition groups.  On 
August 27, the Government declared the Al Arqam religious 
movement to be an illegal organization under the Societies Act 
and seized computers and other materials belonging to the 
organization.  More than 300 members of the sect had been 
arrested as of September 22 for being associated with the 
organization (see also Section 1.d.).  In 1993 the Registrar of 
Societies deregistered a political party of long standing in 
the east Malaysian state of Sabah when it formed a coalition 
with the ruling opposition party, and threatened to do the same 
to the national opposition party Semangat '46 if it continued 
to claim that it was the legitimate successor to the original 
UMNO party.  The threat of possible deregistration inhibits 
political activism by public or special interest organizations.

Another law affecting freedom of association is the 
Universities and University Colleges Act; it mandates 
government approval for student associations and prohibits 
student associations, as well as faculty members, from engaging 
in political activity.  Campus demonstrations must be approved 
by a university vice chancellor.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Islam is the official religion.  Religious minorities, which 
include large Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Christian communities, 
generally are permitted to worship freely but are subject to 
some restrictions.  Islamic religious laws administered by 
state authorities through Islamic courts bind ethnic Malays in 
some civil matters, such as family relations and diet.  
Government funds support an Islamic religious establishment, 
and it is official policy to "infuse Islamic values" into the 
administration of Malaysia.  At the same time, the Constitution 
provides for freedom of religion, and the Government has 
refused to accede to pressures to impose Islamic religious law 
beyond the Muslim community.

The Government opposes what it considers extremist or deviant 
interpretations of Islam and in August banned the Al Arqam 
religious movement for what it termed "deviationist 
teachings."  In the past, the Government has imposed 
restrictions on certain Islamic sects.  It continues to monitor 
the activities of the Shi'ite minority.

There are persistent allegations that some state governments 
are slow in approving building permits for non-Muslim places of 
worship and some non-Muslims allege difficulty in obtaining 
land for cemeteries.  In one instance, a municipal council had 
approved the construction of a Catholic Church headquarters 
only to rescind its approval in August 1993, after a public 
outcry by the predominantly Muslim local community.  A 
compromise was proposed which would have permitted the church 
to build a two-story structure but was rejected by church 
officials.  The Government has limited the circulation of a 
popular Malay-language translation of the Bible, and some 
states restrict the use of religious terms by Christians in the 
Malay language.

The Government permits but discourages conversion to religions 
other than Islam.  Some states have long proscribed by law 
proselytizing of Muslims and other parts of the country 
strongly discourage it as well.  In a March 1990 decision, the 
Supreme Court upheld the primacy of the Constitution over 
inconsistent state laws by ruling that parents have the right 
to determine the religion of their minor children under the age 
of 18.  The decision eased fears of the non-Muslim community 
over state laws that in religious conversion cases set the age 
of majority at puberty based on Islamic law.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Malaysians generally have the right to travel within the 
country and live and work where they please, but the Government 
restricts these rights in some circumstances.  The states of 
Sabah and Sarawak have the independent right to control 
immigration into their territories; Malaysians from peninsular 
west Malaysia and foreigners are required to present passports 
or national identity cards for entry.  The Government regulates 
the internal movement of provisionally released ISA detainees.  
It also limits the movement of some released ISA detainees to a 
designated city or state (see Section 1.e.).

The Government generally does not restrict emigration.  
Malaysians are free to travel abroad, although in some cases 
the Government has refused to issue or has withheld passports 
on security grounds or in the belief that the trip will be 
detrimental to the country's image.  Most government action is 
taken because of suspected drug trafficking offenses or other 
serious crimes.  In an unprecedented move in August, the 
Government revoked the passport of Al Arqam leader Ashaari 
Muhammed and nine of his followers while Ashaari and his 
followers were still residing in Thailand.

In July 1993, immigration authorities withdrew the passport of 
a poet allegedly to prevent him from reading his poems, which 
supported antilogging activities.  Immigration authorities 
returned his passport in late August 1993.  Also in August 
1993, the Immigration Department in the east Malaysian state of 
Sarawak, on instructions from the Home Affairs Ministry, 
confiscated the passport of a Sarawak native who was on his way 
to an international conference of indigenous peoples.  Two 
other Sarawak natives who planned to attend conferences had 
their passports confiscated in 1992; government authorities 
still have not returned their passports.

Malaysians are not permitted to travel to Israel, and in June, 
following a public outcry, the Government revoked the passport 
of Tunku Abdullah, brother of the King of Malaysia, after 
Abdullah made what was described as a "private business trip" 
to Israel.  Recently, however, the Government has loosened 
travel restrictions for Malaysian pilgrims to visit Jerusalem.

According to a report by the Home Affairs Ministry, a total of 
455,070 foreign workers were issued work permits as of June 
1994.  However, there may be up to 1 million foreign workers in 
Malaysia, many illegal, who work in low-skill jobs in the 
plantation and construction sectors of the economy.  Although 
some illegal workers ultimately are able to regularize their 
immigration status, others depart voluntarily after a few 
months, while some are formally deported as illegal migrants.  
In 1992 the Government conducted a registration program 
designed to regularize the immigration status of illegal 
workers.  After the registration program ended, however, the 
Government launched combined police and military operations to 
enforce immigration and passport laws.  In 1994, more than 
130,000 foreign workers were detained, of whom about 50,000 
were deported.  On March 27, Kuala Lumpur police conducted an 
immigration roundup of some 1,000 Filipino maids at a prominent 
Catholic cathedral just after mass.  The roundup, which 
included some persons producing valid residence and work 
permits, led to strong protests from the Philippine Embassy.  
In most cases the police released those detained within 24 

In 1991 and 1992, separate groups of asylum seekers (totaling 
approximately 300) from the Indonesian province of Aceh arrived 
in northwestern Malaysia, allegedly fleeing violence stemming 
from a separatist rebellion in Indonesia.  These asylum seekers 
requested refugee status, and their plight has received 
attention by international and local human rights 
organizations.  Although the Government has refused to 
recognize them as political refugees, in early 1994 it offered 
to regularize the status of Acehnese in Malaysia and release 
those being held in detention.  The Government offer to those 
in immigration facilities and to the group residing at the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) compound included 
promises of jobs on plantations and the same residency permits 
enjoyed by other guest workers.  The Acehnese rejected the 
Malaysian offer, contending they were political refugees, not 
economic migrants.  As of December 20, 131 Acehnese were being 
held in immigration detention facilities, and 53 were residing 
at the UNHCR compound in Kuala Lumpur.  The latter were part of 
a group of Acehnese who took refuge in the UNHCR compound in 
1992 demanding refugee status.  Members of this group come and 
go freely, although one has been detained.  In 1994 there was 
no evidence of forced repatriation of Acehnese although the 
Government has offered to assist those who wish to return 
voluntarily.  According to government sources, approximately 
163 Acehnese asylum seekers had returned home voluntarily as of 
June 1993.

Having provided first asylum to more than 254,000 Vietnamese 
boat refugees since 1975, the Government began to deny first 
asylum to virtually all arriving Vietnamese in May 1989, in 
contravention of its commitments under the Comprehensive Plan 
of Action (CPA) on Indochinese refugees adopted in 1989.  From 
May 1989 to November 1993, Malaysia denied first asylum to 
10,495 Vietnamese boat people, of whom all but 145 arrived in 
1989-90.  In late 1993 the Government reversed this policy and 
permitted a boat carrying three Vietnamese asylum seekers to 
land and be screened by the UNHCR for refugee status under 
provisions of the CPA.  In addition, four Vietnamese who had 
arrived by land and were being held in immigration detention 
facilities were transferred to the Sungei Besi refugee camp and 
screened for refugee status.  In 1994 the Government returned 
to full compliance with first asylum provisions of the CPA.  In 
accordance with the CPA, Malaysia finished screening Vietnamese 
boat people in its first-asylum camps.  Final appeals were 
reviewed in September.  Malaysian military officers do the 
screening, with legal consultants from the UNHCR present during 
each interview.  As of December 20, about 5,464 Vietnamese 
remained in camps in Malaysia.  The Government has reiterated 
that it will not forcibly return screened-out asylum seekers 
but will continue to urge voluntary repatriation.  UNHCR 
officials have praised the Government's treatment of Vietnamese 
asylum seekers in Malaysia under provisions of the CPA.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

By law citizens have the right to change their government 
through periodic elections, which are procedurally free and 
fair, with votes recorded accurately.  In practice, however, it 
is very difficult for opposition parties to compete on equal 
terms with the governing coalition (which has held power at the 
national level since 1957) because of some electoral 
irregularities and legal restrictions on campaigning, as well 
as restrictions on freedom of association and of the press.  
Malaysia has a Westminster-style parliamentary system of 
government.  National elections, required at least every 5 
years, have been held regularly since independence in 1957.  
Through the UMNO, Malays dominate the ruling national front 
coalition of ethnic-based parties that has controlled 
Parliament since independence.  Within the UMNO there is active 
political debate.

Non-Malays fill 8 of the 25 cabinet posts.  The Government 
coalition currently controls 12 of 13 states.  Ethnic Chinese 
leaders of a member party of the government coalition hold 
executive power in the state of Penang.  An Islamic opposition 
party controls the northern state of Kelantan.

Women face no legal limits on participation in government and 
politics, but there are practical impediments.  Women are 
represented in senior leadership positions in the Government in 
small numbers, including two cabinet-level ministers.  Women 
comprise approximately 6 percent (holding 11 seats out of 180) 
of the elected lower house of Parliament and approximately 19 
percent (13 seats out of 68) of the appointed upper house.  
They also hold high-level judgeships.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

After a 2-year struggle for registration, the National Human 
Rights Association, a local human rights society of prominent 
Malaysians, began operating in 1991.  This association publicly 
criticizes the Government, although it does not investigate the 
government except in response to individual complaints.  It 
seeks repeal of the ISA and is reviewing Kelantan's efforts to 
impose Islamic restrictions in that state.  A number of other 
organizations, including the Bar Council and public interest 
groups, devote attention to human rights activities.  The 
Government tolerates their activities but rarely responds to 
their inquiries or occasional press statements.  Malaysian 
officials criticize local groups for collaborating with 
international human rights organizations, representatives of 
which have visited and traveled in Malaysia but rarely have 
been given access to government officials.  In 1992 a group 
seeking to form a local chapter of a prominent international 
human rights organization appealed a government rejection of 
their application under the Societies Act.  In 1993 the 
Government rejected the appeal.

The Government has not acceded to any of the major 
international treaties on human rights, generally maintaining 
that such issues are internal matters.  It rejects criticism of 
its human rights record by international human rights 
organizations and foreign governments.  However, during 1993 
and 1994, the Prime Minister and other cabinet officials were 
vocal advocates of human rights with respect to Serbian 
atrocities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Foreign government officials have discussed human rights with 
their Malaysian counterparts, and private groups occasionally 
have done so.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status


The cultural and religious traditions of Malaysia's major 
ethnic groups heavily influence the condition of women in 
Malaysian society.  In family and religious matters, Muslim 
women are subject to Islamic law.  Polygyny is allowed and 
practiced to a limited degree, and inheritance law favors male 
offspring and relatives.  The Islamic Family Law was revised in 
1989 to provide better protection for the property rights of 
married Muslim women and to make more equitable a Muslim 
woman's right to divorce.

Non-Muslim women are subject to civil law.  Changes in the 
Civil Marriage and Divorce Act in the early 1980's increased 
protection of married women's rights, especially those married 
under customary rites.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) concerned about women's 
issues push for legislative and social reforms to improve the 
status of women.  These groups raise issues such as violence 
against women, trafficking in women and young girls, employment 
opportunities with equal pay, and greater participation by 
women in decisionmaking positions.  Statistics on domestic 
violence are sketchy, but government leaders have identified 
domestic violence as a continuing social ill.  The Government 
is taking steps to address the problem.  In May Parliament 
passed the first domestic violence bill after 8 years of 
lobbying by women's groups.  It offers a broad definition of 
domestic violence, gives powers to the courts to protect 
victims, and provides for compensation and counseling for 
victims.  However, it fails to make an act of domestic violence 
a criminal offense, and women's groups have criticized it on 
those grounds.  Those covered under the bill include a spouse, 
former spouse, a child, an incapacitated adult, or any other 
member of the family.  Cases of wife beating or child abuse 
normally are tried under provisions of the Penal Code governing 
assault and battery, which carry penalties of 3 months to 1 
year in prison and fines up to $300.  Women's issues continued 
to receive prominent coverage in public seminars and the media 
in 1994.

Government policy supports women's full and equal participation 
in education and the work force.  Women are represented in 
growing numbers in the professions, although their 
participation as of 1990 in the administrative and managerial 
occupations was less than 1 percent, and they generally receive 
lower wages.  In the scientific and medical fields, women now 
make up more than half of all university graduates and the 
total intake of women into universities increased from 29 
percent in 1970 to 44 percent of the student population in 
1990.  The participation of women in the labor force increased 
from 37 percent in 1970 to 47 percent in 1990, including a 
tripling of the number of women involved in manufacturing.

In the opposition-controlled state of Kelantan, the state 
government has imposed restrictions on all female workers, 
including non-Muslims.  Female workers cannot work at night and 
are restricted in the dress they may wear in the workplace.  
The state government justifies these restrictions as reflecting 
Islamic values.  Given Malaysia's federal structure of 
government, there are no legal means, short of amending the 
Constitution, by which the central Government can overturn such 
state laws.


The Government is committed to children's rights and welfare; 
it spends roughly 20 percent of its current budget on 
education.  According to statistics publicized by the National 
Unity and Social Development Ministry, 1,064 cases of child 
abuse were reported in 1993.  The Government has taken some 
steps to deal with the problem.  Parliament passed the 
Children's Protection Act in 1991, effective in 1993.  In 1994 
public attention and debate on child abuse increased 
significantly as Malaysia hosted the worldwide conference of 
the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and 
Neglect.  In 1994 Malaysian news media featured regular 
reports, commentary, and graphic public service announcements 
on these social problems.

Statistics on the extent of child prostitution are not 
available, but women's organizations have highlighted the 
problem of trafficking in underage girls.  The Health Ministry 
announced that it would work closely with the police to stamp 
out child prostitution, and some brothel owners have been 

     Indigenous People

Indigenous groups and persons are accorded the same 
constitutional rights as the rest of the population, along with 
the same limitations.  In practice, federal laws pertaining to 
indigenous people vest almost total power in the Minister of 
National Unity and Social Development to protect, control, and 
otherwise decide issues concerning them.  As a result, 
indigenous people have very little ability to participate in 
decisions.  State governments make decisions affecting land 
rights in peninsular Malaysia.  The law does not permit 
indigenous persons (known as Orang Asli) in west Malaysia, who 
have been granted land on a group basis, to own land on an 
individual basis.  In some cases, groups of Orang Asli have 
applied for titles, but state authorities have not provided 
them.  Land disputes between Orang Asli and others resulted in 
three people being killed in April 1993.  In February 1994, 
Orang Asli from Perak complained to their member of Parliament 
about encroachment on their land.

In east Malaysia, although state law recognizes indigenous 
people's right to land under "native customary rights," the 
definition and extent of these lands are in dispute.  
Indigenous people in the state of Sarawak continue to protest 
the alleged encroachment by the State or private logging 
companies onto land that they consider theirs by virtue of 
customary rights.  In Sarawak in 1992 the Government arrested 
95 indigenous people who protested these alleged encroachments.
The protests and arrests continued in 1993, and, in January 
1994, four persons were arrested in Sarawak for attempting to 
stop a logging company from operating within what they claimed 
was their native customary rights land area.

According to government figures, the indigenous people in 
peninsular Malaysia, who number fewer than 100,000, are the 
poorest group in Malaysia.  However, according to Malaysian 
government officials, Orang Asli are gradually catching up to 
other Malaysians in their standard of living, and the 
percentage of Orang Asli who were still leading a nomadic 
lifestyle has dropped to 49 percent.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Ethnic minorities are represented in cabinet-level positions in 
government, as well as in senior civil service positions.  
Nevertheless, the political dominance of the Malay majority 
means in practice that ethnic Malays hold the most powerful 
senior leadership positions in government.

The Government implements extensive "affirmative action" 
programs designed to boost the economic position of the ethnic 
Malay majority, which remains poorer, on average, than the 
Chinese minority despite the former's political dominance.  
Such government affirmative action programs and policies do, 
however, limit opportunities for non-Malays in higher 
education, government employment, business permits and 
licenses, and ownership of newly developed agricultural lands.  
Indian Malaysians continue to lag behind in Malaysia's economic 
development, although the national economic policies target 
less advantaged populations regardless of ethnicity.  These 
programs, which have operated since the 1969 riots, are widely 
credited with helping assure the generally strife-free ethnic 

     People with Disabilities

While the Government does not discriminate against physically 
disabled persons in employment, education, and provision of 
other state services, budgetary allotments for people with 
disabilities are very small.  Public transportation, public 
buildings, and other facilities are not adapted to the needs of 
the disabled, and the Government has not mandated accessibility 
for the disabled, through legislation or otherwise.  Special 
education schools exist, but they are not sufficient to meet 

Disabled persons work in all sectors of the economy, but the 
prevalent feeling in society remains that disabled people 
cannot work.  In May the Government did take a major step to 
acknowledge the rights of those with disabilities when the 
Deputy Prime Minister signed the Economic and Social Commission 
for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Proclamation on Full 
Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the 
Asia and Pacific region.  By signing this agreement, the 
Government committed itself to implementing new policy 
initiatives and actions aimed at systematically improving the 
living conditions of people with disabilities.

The Government has sought to register those with disabilities 
under four categories--blind, deaf, physical, mental--and by 
May had identified 60,632 persons with disabilities.  It is 
estimated that there are 180,000 persons with disabilities in 

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

By law most workers have the right to engage in trade union 
activity, and 12 percent of the work force are members of trade 
unions.  Exceptions include certain limited categories of 
workers labeled "confidential" and "superskilled," as well as 
defense and police officials.  Within certain limitations, 
unions may organize workplaces, bargain collectively with 
employers, and associate with national federations.

The Industrial Relations Act prohibits interfering with, 
restraining, or coercing a worker in the exercise of the right 
to form trade unions or in participating in lawful trade union 
activities.  The Trade Unions Act, however, restricts a union 
to representing workers in a "particular establishment, trade, 
occupation, or industry or within any similar trades, 
occupations, or industries," contrary to International Labor 
Organization (ILO) guidelines.   The Director General of Trade 
Unions (DGTU) may refuse to register a trade union and, in some 
circumstances, may also withdraw the registration of a trade 
union.  When registration has been refused, withdrawn, or 
canceled, a trade union is considered an unlawful association.  
The Government justifies its overall labor policies by positing 
that a "social compact" exists wherein the Government, 
employer, and worker are part of an overall effort to create 
jobs, train workers, boost productivity and profitability, and 
ultimately provide the resources necessary to fund human 
resource development and a national social safety net.

Trade unions from different industries may join together in 
national congresses, but must register as societies under the 
Societies Act.  Government policy discourages the formation of 
national unions in the electronics sector; it believes 
enterprise-level unions are more appropriate for this sector.  
At year's end, there were six such enterprise-level unions 
registered in the electronics industry (it takes only seven 
workers to form a union) of which four were recognized through 
elections in which they represented 50 percent plus 1 of the 
workers, and two had collective bargaining agreements 
negotiated with their employers.  In one case in 1990, a 
company dismissed all members of one of these unions.  The 
union charged the company with union-busting and wrongful 
dismissal in industrial court.  The case was filed in September 
1990; the union appealed an industrial court decision of May 
1994 (in favor of the company) to the High Court.  The court 
has set a hearing date for February 21, 1995.  Restrictions on 
freedom of association in the electronics industry have been 
the subject of complaints to the ILO.

Unions maintain independence both from the Government and from 
the political parties, but individual union members may belong 
to political parties.  Although union officers are forbidden to 
hold principal offices in political parties, individual trade 
union leaders have served in Parliament as opposition 
politicians.  Malaysian trade unions are free to associate with 
national labor societies that exercise many of the 
responsibilities of national labor unions, though they cannot 
bargain for local unions.  Enterprise unions also can associate 
with international labor bodies and actively do so.

Although strikes are legal, the right to strike is severely 
restricted.  Malaysian law contains a list of "essential 
services" in which unions must give advance notice of any 
industrial action.  The list includes sectors not normally 
deemed "essential" under ILO definitions.  There were 18 
strikes in 1993 resulting in a loss of 7,162-man days.  Most of 
the strikes (13) were in the plantation sector; only 3 strikes 
took place in the manufacturing sector.

The Industrial Relations Act of 1967 requires the parties to 
notify the Ministry of Human Resources that a dispute exists 
before any industrial action (strike or lockout) may be taken.  
The Ministry's Industrial Relations Department may then become 
actively involved in conciliation efforts.  If conciliation 
fails to achieve a settlement, the Minister has the power to 
refer the dispute to the Industrial Court.  Strikes or lockouts 
are prohibited while the dispute is before the Industrial 
Court.  According to 1994 data, the Industrial Court found for 
labor in 62 percent of its cases and for management in 14 
percent.  The remaining 24 percent were settled out of court.  
The Industrial Relations Act prohibits employers from taking 
retribution against a worker for participating in the lawful 
activities of a trade union.  Where a strike is legal, these 
provisions would prohibit employer retribution against strikers 
and leaders.  In the absence of any reports of employer 
retribution, it is not possible to assess whether these 
provisions are effectively enforced.

There are three national labor organizations currently 
registered:  one for public servants, one for teachers, and one 
for employees of state-based textile and garment companies.  
Public servants have the right to organize at the level of 
ministries and departments.  There are three national joint 
councils representing management and professional civil 
servants, technical employees, and nontechnical workers.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Malaysian workers have the legal right to organize and bargain 
collectively, and collective bargaining is widespread in those 
sectors where labor is organized.   Malaysian law prohibits 
antiunion discrimination by employers against union members and 
organizers, though some union leaders say the legal system is 
not capable of dealing promptly and fairly with their 
complaints.  Charges of discrimination may be filed with the 
Ministry of Human Resources or the Industrial Court.  When 
conciliation efforts by the Ministry of Human Resources fail, 
critics say the Industrial Court is slow in adjudicating worker 

Companies in free trade zones (FTZ's) must observe labor 
standards identical to those elsewhere in Malaysia.  Many 
workers at FTZ companies are organized, especially in the 
textile and electrical products sectors.  During 1993 the 
Government proposed amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 
to remove previous restrictions on concluding collective 
agreements about terms and conditions of service in "pioneer 
industries."  Legislative concurrence, which had been expected 
by year's end, did not take place because of other pressing 
legislative initiatives.  The Government took these measures in 
part to respond to ILO criticism of its previous policy with 
respect to pioneer industries.  The ILO continues to object to 
other legal restrictions on collective bargaining.  Some labor 
leaders criticized amendments to Malaysia's Labor Law in 1980, 
designed to curb strikes, as an erosion of basic worker 
rights.  The labor critics contend that these changes do not 
confirm to ILO standards.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

There is no evidence that forced or compulsory labor occurs.  
In theory, certain Malaysian laws allow the use of 
imprisonment, with compulsory labor as a punishment for persons 
expressing views opposed to the established order or who 
participate in strikes.  The Government maintains that the 
constitutional prohibition on forced or compulsory labor 
renders these laws without effect.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act of 1966 
prohibits the employment of children younger than the age of 
14.  The act permits some exceptions, such as light work in a 
family enterprise, work in public entertainment, work performed 
for the Government in a school or training institution, or work 
as an approved apprentice.  In no case may children work more 
than 6 hours per day, more than 6 days per week, or at night.  
Ministry of Human Resources inspectors enforce these legal 
provisions.  In December a Japanese electronics firm was fined 
$5,400 for violating the Children and Young Persons Act.  This 
was the first time a large firm has been fined under the Act.

According to credible reports, child labor is still prevalent 
in certain sectors of the country, but not those which export 
to the United States.  A joint report by the International 
Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Asian and Pacific 
Regional Organization put Malaysia's child work force at 
75,000.  In the last nationwide survey of child labor 
undertaken in 1980, it was estimated that more than 73,400 
children between the ages of 10 to 14 were employed 
full-time.   NGO surveys indicate that most child laborers are 
employed on agricultural estates but there are indications that 
some are being employed in small factories.  Government 
officials deny the existence of child labor and maintain that 
child laborers have been replaced by foreign guest workers.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Malaysia does not have a national minimum wage, but the Wage 
Councils Act provides for a minimum wage in those sectors or 
regions of the country where a need exists.  Under the law, 
workers in an industry who believe they need the protection of 
a minimum wage may request that a "wage council" be 
established.  About 140,000 workers, or 2 percent of the over 
7-million-member labor force, are covered by minimum wages set 
by wage councils.  Representatives from labor, management, and 
the Government sit on the wage councils.  The minimum wages set 
by wage councils generally do not provide for an adequate 
standard of living for a worker and family.  However, 
prevailing wages in Malaysia, even in the sectors covered by 
wage councils, are higher than the minimum wages set by the 
wage councils and do provide an adequate living.

Under the Employment Act of 1955, working hours may not exceed 
8 hours per day or 44 hours per workweek of 5 1/2 days.  Each 
workweek must include one 24-hour rest period.  The Act also 
sets overtime rates and mandates public holidays, annual leave, 
sick leave, and maternity allowances.  The Labor Department of 
the Ministry of Human Resources enforces these standards, but a 
shortage of inspectors precludes strict enforcement.  In 
October 1993, Parliament adopted a new Occupational Safety and 
Health Act (OSHA) which covers all sectors of the economy, 
except the maritime sector and the military.  The Act 
established a National Occupational Safety and Health Council, 
composed of workers, employers, and government representatives, 
to set policy and coordinate occupational safety and health 
measures.  It requires employers to identify risks and take 
precautions, including providing safety training to workers, 
and compels companies having more than 40 workers to establish 
joint management-employee safety committees.  The Act requires 
workers to use safety equipment and to cooperate with employers 
to create a safe, healthy workplace.

There are currently no specific statutory or regulatory 
provisions which create a positive right for a worker to remove 
himself or herself from dangerous workplace conditions without 
arbitrary dismissal.  Employers or employees violating the OSHA 
are subject to substantial fines or imprisonment for up to 5 

Significant numbers of contract workers, including numerous 
illegal immigrants from Indonesia, work on plantations.  
Working conditions for these laborers compare poorly with those 
of direct hire plantation workers, many of whom belong to the 
National Union of Plantation Workers.  Moreover, immigrant 
workers in the construction and other sectors, particularly if 
illegal entrants, may not have access to Malaysia's system of 
labor adjudication.  Government investigations into this 
problem have resulted in a number of steps to eliminate the 
abuse of contract labor.  For example, in addition to expanding 
programs to regularize the status of immigrant workers, the 
Government investigates complaints of abuses, endeavors to 
inform workers of their rights, encourages workers to come 
forward with their complaints, and warns employers to end 
abuses.  Like other employers, labor contractors may be 
prosecuted for violating Malaysia's labor laws.  The Government 
has taken action against labor contractors who violate the law, 
and has assessed fines.  The minimum fine currently assessed by 
law is $8,000.  In principle, serious violators can be jailed, 
but, in practice, such punishments are rare.

[end of document]


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