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Title:  Malaysia Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                                 MALAYSIA 
 
 
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.  The ruling 
coalition increased its majority in a general election held this year.  
Opposition parties actively contest elections, although they now hold 
only 18 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 coalition. 
 
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 policies. 
 
The Royal Malaysian Police has primary responsibility for internal 
security matters; it reports to the Minister of Home Affairs.  Prime 
Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad 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 and to impose long-term restrictions on movement 
without due process hearings.  The Government also limits judicial 
independence and effectively restricts freedom of assembly and 
association and of speech and the press.  These restrictions make it 
very difficult for opposition parties to compete on equal terms with the 
long-ruling governing coalition.  Religious minorities are subject to 
some restrictions.  Public awareness of serious problems such as 
domestic violence against women and child abuse is increasing and the 
Government is taking concrete steps to address them. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were no reports of political killings. 
 
At least one person died while being investigated in police custody 
during 1995.  The deceased, who was a suspect in a burglary case, died 
from injuries while in police detention.  Although an official autopsy 
report was not released, the suspect's death certificate listed the 
cause of death as "hemorrhage caused by blunt trauma in most parts of 
his body," raising suspicions of police brutality.  The police Inspector 
General ordered a full investigation of the case and promised to punish 
those responsible for the death.  He said he would take appropriate 
measures even if the culprits were police officers.  However, any action 
that may have been taken was not made known to the public.  The Attorney 
General rejected the findings of the police investigation and ordered a 
judicial inquiry.  While human rights groups applauded the Attorney 
General's decision as a positive step in combating a possible police 
coverup, the deceased's attorney questioned the effectiveness of a 
magistrate's inquiry which must to a large extent depend on the findings 
of the police investigation.  The judicial inquiry found 11 police 
officers "criminally involved" in the death of the detainee.  The 
Attorney General is currently reviewing the findings of the inquiry to 
determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges 
against the officers. 
 
Approximately 50 illegal aliens died from malnutrition and illness in 
government detention centers during the year.  The Government denies 
that they were tortured, denied medical treatment, or held in inhumane 
conditions (see Sections 1.c., 1.d. and 1.e.).  The Government is 
investigating these deaths. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   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 1995 (or in recent years) of 
police officials being tried, convicted, and sentenced for abuse of 
prisoners.  The Government is investigating the 1995 death in custody of 
a person who died due to "blunt trauma in most parts of his body," which 
caused suspicions of police abuse (see Section 1.a.). 
 
A number of law enforcement officials were arrested on narcotics related 
charges.  The Prisons Department revealed in the fall that at least 29 
prisons officers were arrested for drug related activities during 1995.  
Most recently, two officers were arrested in September for supplying 
narcotics to inmates.  The suspects are detained under the special 
preventive measures section of the Dangerous Drugs Act and will be 
"banished" for 2 years (see Section 1.d). 
 
Malaysian criminal law prescribes caning as an additional punishment to 
imprisonment for those convicted of crimes such as narcotics possession 
as well as some nonviolent crimes such as criminal breach of trust.  
Judges routinely include caning in sentencing those convicted of such 
crimes as kidnapping, rape, and robbery.  The caning, which is normally 
carried out with a 1/2-inch thick wooden cane, commonly causes welts and 
sometimes scarring. 
 
Prison conditions generally meet international standards.  Basic human 
needs, including medical care, sanitation, nutrition, and family access, 
are met.  Overcrowding is a problem in some of the large prisons, 
especially the Pudu prison in Kuala Lumpur.  One large prison is under 
construction in Kuala Lumpur, and additional prisons are contemplated 
for other parts of the country.  Prison guards have been accused and 
convicted of criminal wrongdoing, mostly in nonviolent narcotics related 
cases.  However, there were no allegations of physical mistreatment of 
prisoners by prison guards.  "Security" prisoners (detainees under the 
ISA) are detained in a separate detention center.  Conditions there are 
not significantly different from those of the regular prison population.  
The Government does not permit visits by human rights monitors. 
 
Approximately 50 illegal aliens died from malnutrition and illness in  
government detention centers during the year.  The Government denies 
that they are kept in inhumane conditions (see Sections 1.a., 1.d., and 
1.e.). 
 
   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, there are currently 2,291 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.  According to the Home Affairs 
Ministry, most of the detainees currently in custody under the ISA are 
forgers.  In 1995, 35 suspects, including three members of the UMNO and 
two civil servants, were arrested under the ISA for allegedly issuing 
Malaysian identity cards to illegal immigrants.  Ten of the 35 suspects 
have been placed in detention under the ISA.  Others are still under 
investigation.    
 
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. 
 
According to the Home Affairs Ministry, there were 34 ISA detainees at 
year's end, up from 27 as of December 1994.  Those released are 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.   
 
Amendments to the ISA severely limit judicial review of detentions, 
contravening international standards of due process.  Opposition leaders 
and human rights organizations continued to call on the Government to 
repeal the ISA and other legislation that deprive people of the right to 
defend themselves in court.  Some officials suggested last year that the 
Government was studying possibilities of making the ISA "less ominous."  
The Deputy Home Minister announced in August 1995 that the Government 
would examine the possibility of reducing the minimum detention period 
to between 6 months and a year.  However, the ISA remains intact to 
date.  Senior government officials continue to 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.   
 
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."  According to the Home Affairs Ministry in September, there 
were 447 people in detention under the Emergency Ordinance, up from 200 
people in 1994.  Local human rights organizations accept this figure as 
accurate. 
 
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, 1,810 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. 
 
Immigration laws are used to detain possible illegal aliens without 
trial or hearing.  A large number of migrant workers who were unable to 
prove their legal status have been placed in temporary detention under 
immigration laws.  The detainees are not accorded any administrative or 
legal hearings and are released only after their employers prove their 
legal status.  Those who cannot prove their legal status are subject to 
deportation.  Approximately 50 detainees have died from malnutrition and 
illnesses in the detention centers this year.  Illegal aliens are kept 
in detention centers which are different from prisons.  Human rights 
organizations and opposition leaders accused the authorities of 
mistreatment and corruption and called for a thorough investigation.  
The Government initially denied any wrongdoing and defended the need to 
control the flow of illegal migrant workers.  In response to wide public 
criticism, however, the authorities agreed to conduct a thorough 
investigation into the allegations as well as a defamation suit filed by 
a local police chief against the nongovernmental organization (NGO) that 
first exposed the problem.  In the course of its investigation, the 
Royal Malaysian Police "interrogated" and "harassed" the head of the 
NGO, but there has been no movement in the defamation suit.  The 
Government also established an independent board to advise the Home 
Affairs Ministry on issues related to migrant workers.  NGO's report 
that conditions in detention centers have marginally improved since the 
allegations surfaced. 
 
Law enforcement authorities also continued to utilize the Restricted 
Residence Act to restrict movements of criminal suspects for an extended 
period.  The Act allows the Home Affairs Ministry to place criminal 
suspects under restricted residence in a remote district away from home 
for a period of 2 years.  The Ministry is authorized to issue the 
"banishment" orders without any judicial or administrative hearings.  In 
March several professional soccer players and coaches allegedly involved 
in match fixing and bribery were "banished" under the Act.  The 
restricted residence practice violates due process and is viewed in the 
same light as detention without trial.  Human rights activists have 
questioned the need for a law that was passed 60 years ago to deal with 
gambling under very different circumstances and have called for its 
repeal.  In imposing the Act on the sports figures, however, the 
Government justified the Act as an important and still necessary tool in 
dealing with vice and gambling activities.   
 
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.  The Government has rejected an 
unknown number of applications by former CPM members to return to 
Malaysia. 
 
The Inspector General of the Police announced in October that over 400 
former communists have been "rehabilitated" by the Malaysian security 
authorities and resettled in Malaysia since December 1989.  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. 
 
   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
Malaysia's legal system is based on English common law.  High Courts 
have original jurisdiction over all criminal cases involving serious 
crimes and most civil cases.  Civil suits involving car accidents and 
landlord-tenant disputes are heard by Sessions courts.  Magistrate's 
courts hear criminal cases in which the maximum term of sentence does 
not exceed 12 months.  The Court of Appeal has appellate jurisdiction 
over High court and Session court decisions.  The Federal Court hears 
appeals of Court of Appeal decisions.  Islamic religious laws 
administered by state authorities through Islamic courts bind ethnic 
Malays in some civil matters, such as family relations and diet. 
 
The Malaysian judiciary has traditionally been regarded by the public 
and the legal community as committed to the rule of law, and it 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. 
 
With the appointment of a new Chief Justice last year, the relations 
between the judiciary and the bar appeared headed for a more cordial and 
effective partnership.  However, following a series of questionable 
election-related decisions and the controversial handling of a 
celebrated commercial case this year, impartiality and independence of 
the judiciary were again in the spotlight.  The Bar Council issued 
strong condemnations of the judiciary and of the Chief Justice.  The 
press gave wide and fair coverage to the debate.  As the public debate 
escalated, the Prime Minister advised the Bar Council and the judiciary 
to work out the problems quietly and avoid press battles.  The Bar 
Council has vowed to stand firm in its push for an independent and 
impartial judiciary. 
 
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 10 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 in 1994 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.  There were no cases involving this restriction in 
1995.   
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The law provides for these rights and the government generally respects 
them.  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 warrant. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the 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.   
 
Shortly before the general election, opposition member of the Parliament 
Lim Guan Eng was charged with sedition and violation of the Publications 
Act for making statements and distributing pamphlets regarding a rape 
case in which the former Chief Minister of Malacca was a suspect.  The 
case against Lim is still pending, and the hearing is scheduled for next 
year.  Lim, who retained his seat in the general election, has argued 
that the case against him is politically motivated.   
 
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.  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.   
 
Although there were no cases of denial of renewal requests this year, 
the Government has in the past used this requirement to place 
limitations on opposition and other publications critical of the 
Government.  The government ruling coalition's firm control of the press 
was clearly evident during the general election.  As opposition 
candidates struggled to receive any coverage, the ruling coalition was 
lauded in front page stories for the duration of the campaign period.   
 
The Official Secrets Act is also sometimes used to restrict freedom of 
the press.  In April the police arrested two reporters for violation of 
the Act for writing articles related to an ongoing investigation of a 
criminal case.  While the Government emphasized the importance of 
journalists acting "within the law," the National Union of Journalists 
criticized the arrest as a threat to freedom of the press.  Pointing out 
the dangers of abuse of the Act to restrict press freedom, the Bar 
Council called for a review of certain provisions of the Act which grant 
too much discretion to the authorities in classifying documents and deny 
the judiciary power to review the classifications.  The reporters were 
released after a short period of detention.   
 
In a positive development, authorities showed tolerance for television 
and radio talk shows which air views critical of the Government.  One 
particular live television show in which panelists had expressed frank 
views on various sensitive topics was allowed to remain on the air after 
a contentious public debate.  Government leaders agreed with the press 
that exchanges of ideas should be encouraged and available to the 
public.   
 
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.   
 
The Government generally respects academic freedom in the areas of 
teaching and publication.  Malaysian academics are often publicly 
critical of the Government.  However, there is a degree of self-
censorship among public university academics whose career advancement 
and funding are prerogatives of the Government.  Private institution 
academics also practice a limited degree of self-censorship for fear 
that the Government may revoke licenses for their institutions. 
 
   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 continued the policy during 
the general election of 1995.  However, both government and opposition 
parties held large indoor political gatherings dubbed "discussion 
sessions" during the campaign period.  The ruling coalition also held 
several large scale events which very much resembled political rallies 
but were called something else and allowed.   
 
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.  These restrictions and the ban on 
political rallies handicap the opposition's ability to campaign 
effectively.   
 
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.  In 
1994, 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 were arrested for being associated with the organization.  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.  Human rights 
organizations have called for a repeal of the Act on the grounds that it 
inhibits free flow of ideas and exchange of views.   
 
   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. 
 
Although there were no incidents of restrictions on religious sects in 
1995, government authorities continued to emphasize the importance of 
controlling "deviationist" groups.  They warned that these groups will 
not be allowed to take advantage of freedom of religion to spread 
discord among the Malaysian people.   
 
Although there were no reports of specific incidents in 1995, 
allegations that some state governments are slow in approving building 
permits for non-Muslim places of worship or land for cemeteries for non-
Muslims persisted.  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 
 
Citizens 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; 
citizens 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 also uses 
the Restricted Residence Act to limit movements of those suspected of 
gambling or vice activities (see Section 1.e.).   
 
The Government generally does not restrict emigration. Citizens 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 last year, 
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. 
 
Citizens are not permitted to travel to Israel, and in 1994, following a 
public outcry, the Government revoked the passport of Tunku Abdullah, a 
member of the royal family, after Abdullah made what was described as a 
"private business trip" to Israel.  Recently, however, the Government 
has loosened travel restrictions.  Citizens are now permitted to travel 
to Jerusalem for religious purposes.  
 
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 over 1 million foreign workers in Malaysia, many illegally, 
who work in low-skill jobs in the plantation, construction, and service 
sectors of the economy.  The Human Resources Ministry reports that as 
many as 1.3 million foreign workers, both legal and illegal, are in the 
country.  It acknowledges that as many as 500,000 of those are here 
illegally.  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, 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.  Following a report of numerous deaths in the detention 
centers, human rights groups and opposition politicians accused the 
authorities of mistreatment and corruption and called for an independent 
investigation (see Section 1.d.). 
 
In 1991 and 1992 over 300 asylum seekers from the Indonesian province of 
Aceh arrived in Malaysia, allegedly fleeing violence stemming from a 
separatist rebellion in northern Sumatra.  The Government refused to 
recognize the Acehnese as political refugees.  By mid-1993 approximately 
163 Acehnese had returned voluntarily to Sumatra.  In early 1994 the 
Government offered to release those in detention, to provide all of the 
Acehnese with work permits and to give them jobs on plantations.  The 
Acehnese rejected the Government's offer, contending they were not 
economic migrants.  Nevertheless, in mid-1995 the 131 Acehnese in 
detention and the 51 who had obtained refuge in the compound of the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agreed to resolve the impasse by 
accepting the Government's offer of work permits renewable on a yearly 
basis along with the freedom to work in any sector. 
 
Having provided first asylum to more than 254,000 Vietnamese boat 
refugees since 1975, the Government began in May 1989 to deny, in 
contravention of its commitments under the Comprehensive Plan of Action 
(CPA), first asylum to virtually all arriving Vietnamese.  Between May 
1989 and November 1993 Malaysia denied first asylum to over 10,000 
Vietnamese.   However, in late 1993 the Government reversed its policy, 
and throughout 1994 and 1995 it fully complied with the CPA's first 
asylum provisions.  Military officers conducted the screening of the 
applicants for refugee status, with legal consultants from the UNHCR 
present during each interview.  Final appeals were reviewed in late 
1994.  Between March 1989 and December 4, 1995, 9,635 Vietnamese were 
granted refugee status to settle in the United States.  During the same 
period, 4,747 returned voluntarily to Vietnam, including 626 in 1995.  
Voluntary returns to Vietnam slowed to a trickle in the second half of 
1995.  The Government declared that Malaysia would use its bilateral 
orderly return program with Vietnam to repatriate all the remaining 
Vietnamese asylum seekers by December 31, 1995.  However, the Government 
was not able to persuade the Vietnamese Government to accept large 
numbers of screened out asylum seekers.  As of December 4, 1995, 4,406 
Vietnamese asylum seekers remained in the camps, of whom 94 have been 
approved for resettlement in a third country; another 39 Khmers also 
remained.  
 
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.   
 
Nevertheless, opposition candidates campaign actively and admit that the 
voting and counting of votes are relatively free.   
 
Following the 1995 general election, courts issued several controversial 
decisions on election-related disputes which the opposition argued were 
motivated by "political" mandates of the ruling coalition.  In one 
instance, the court overturned an election result and awarded the seat 
to the ruling party candidate, who had lost the election to an 
opposition incumbent.  In doing so, the court overturned an election 
commission decision that the opposition candidate was qualified to run 
despite a judgment against him in an unrelated case.  The opposition 
argued that since the election itself was conducted without fraud, a new 
election should be called.  However, the court ruled that the seat 
belonged to the losing candidate because the winner should not have been 
allowed to run in the first place.  The decision awards to the ruling 
party a seat that has been traditionally held by the opposition, and the 
ruling has been criticized as an unfair political judgment. 
 
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.  A general election was held this 
year in accordance with the 5-year rule.  The ruling coalition won an 
overwhelming victory, increasing its majority in the Parliament to 82 
percent.  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. 
 
The Parliament passed amendments to its rules in October which 
strengthen the power of the speaker and which curb parliamentary 
procedures heavily used by the opposition.  The amendments empower the 
speaker to ban obstreperous opposition Members of Parliament (M.P.'s) 
for up to 10 days, imposed limits on the ability of M.P.'s to pose 
supplementary questions and revisit nongermane issues, and establish 
restrictions on the tabling of questions of public importance.  The 
amendments reduce substantially the opposition's scope to criticize the 
Government in Parliament. 
 
A new cabinet position was created after the election, and non-Malays 
now fill 7 of the 26 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 7.8 percent 
(holding 15 seats out of 192) of the elected lower house of Parliament 
and approximately 19 percent (13 seats out of 69) 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.  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 its application 
under the Societies Act.  In 1993 the Government rejected the appeal. 
 
NGO's are becoming increasingly active and critical of the Government.  
Although the Government did not place any restrictions on their 
activities in 1995, government authorities highlighted allegations of 
abuses by NGO's and hinted that they may need to be more closely 
monitored.   
 
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.   
 
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 Federal Constitution of Malaysia provides for equal protection of 
the law and prohibits discrimination against citizens on the basis of 
religion, race, descent or place of birth.  Although neither the 
constitution nor laws explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of 
sex or disabilities, the government has made efforts to eliminate 
discrimination against women and the disabled.  Despite the 
constitutional prohibition against discrimination on the basis of 
religion or race, government policies include affirmative action 
programs for bumiputras (i.e., Malays and Muslims).   
 
   Women 
 
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 1994 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 1995. 
 
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. 
 
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 1993 women still occupied only 
about 1 percent of administrative and managerial positions.  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 half of the student population in 
1995.  The participation of women in the labor force increased from 37 
percent in 1970 to 48 percent in 1994, 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.  A court decision applies only to the facts of the particular 
case.  However, it is conceivable that if someone were to challenge 
Kelantan's restrictions in court, the court might use the same line of 
reasoning to deal with the restrictions.     
 
   Children 
 
The Government is committed to childrens' 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, 1,075 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 
1995 the Law Minister announced that the Government was considering 
imposing a mandatory death sentence for those found guilty of child 
abuse which resulted in death.  Public and government awareness of child 
abuse and children's rights continued to increase as the press and NGO's 
devoted more attention to the issue.   
 
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 prosecuted. 
 
   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 needs.  The Government, however, appears to be becoming more 
sensitive to the needs of physically disabled.  In August the 
Transportation Minister announced that new commuter trains will be made 
wheelchair accessible.  The Government also provides incentives for 
employers to offer employment opportunities for the disabled. 
 
Disabled persons work in all sectors of the economy, but the prevalent 
feeling in society remains that disabled people cannot work.  In 1994 
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 as of June, 1995, has 
registered 55,673 persons with disabilities in peninsular Malaysia.  
NGO's estimate that there are at least 200,000 persons with disabilities 
in Malaysia.   
 
   Indigenous People 
 
Indigenous groups and persons enjoy 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.  Although not publicized 
widely, the problem of land disputes between Orang Asli and others 
persist.   
 
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 continued to protest the 
alleged encroachment by the State or private logging companies onto land 
that they consider theirs by virtue of customary rights.  Revival of a 
large dam project (Bakun Dam) in Sarawak, which will involve 
resettlement of a large number of residents in the area, has raised 
several controversial questions regarding land disputes as well as 
potential environmental problems.   
 
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 less than 40 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 to 
ensure the generally strife-free ethnic balance. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
By law most workers have the right to engage in trade union activity, 
and approximately 10 percent of the work force are members of trade 
unions.  Exceptions include certain limited categories of workers 
labeled "confidential" and "managerial and executives," 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; the Government  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.  On August 8, the 
High Court reversed the decision of the industrial court and ordered a 
new hearing in the lower court.  Restrictions on freedom of association 
in the electronics industry have been the subject of complaints to the 
ILO.  In July 1995, in a case involving the Metal Industry Workers 
Union, the Ministry of Human Resources went to court to force an 
employer to disclose information necessary to resolve a claim of 
recognition--the first action of its kind. 
 
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.  Trade unions are free to 
associate with national labor societies that exercise many of the 
responsibilities of national labor unions, although they cannot bargain 
for local unions.  Enterprise unions also can associate with 
international labor bodies and actively do so. 
 
Relations between the Government and the Malaysian Trade Union Congress 
(MTUC), the leading labor center, have never been warm, but there have 
been periods of closer cooperation and less overt antagonism.  Relations 
reached a low point when MTUC President Zainal Rampak and former MTUC 
Secretary General Dr. V. David were arrested and charged in October 1994 
with criminal breach of trust along with two other union leaders.  Some 
groups claimed that the fact of the arrests (based on events in the 
1980s) and the high bail amount (close to $200,000 for a violation 
involving some $4,000) were an attempt to keep Rampak from attending and 
raising controversial issues in international labor forums, such as the 
International Labor Organization (ILO).  This concern was allayed when 
Rampak, whose passport had been seized by the authorities, was given 
permission to travel to Geneva.  The trial, which was set for May 1995, 
was postponed to November when David was unable to make a court 
appearance due to illness.  They appeared in the Sessions court on 
November 21 and pled not guilty to the original charges as well as 
additional charges of criminal breach of trust involving over $30,000.  
Next hearings are set for May 1996.  MTUC and international observers 
continue to be concerned about the outcome of this trial. 
 
Although strikes are legal, the right to strike is severely restricted.  
The 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 15 
strikes in 1994 resulting in a loss of 5,675 man-days.  A majority of 
the strikes (7) were in the plantation sector.  Six strikes took place 
in the manufacturing sector, double the number for previous year.  
 
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.  Figures for 
1995 were not available.  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.  Although 
some trade unions question their effectiveness, it is not possible to 
assess fully whether these provisions are being effectively enforced, 
given the limited number of cases of alleged retribution. 
 
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 
 
Workers have the legal right to organize and bargain collectively, and 
collective bargaining is widespread in those sectors where labor is 
organized.  The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers 
against union members and organizers.  In one case, the industrial court 
ordered a Japanese maker of electronic watch components to reinstate an 
employee who had been unfairly dismissed for his involvement in trade 
union activities.  To date, the company has failed to implement the 
order, leading some union leaders to say that 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 complaints.   
 
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."  Legislation to address this issue was introduced and 
subsequently withdrawn in late 1994 by the Ministry of Human Resources 
to take into account other developments in the labor sector.  Government 
plans to reintroduce such legislation in 1995 did not materialize.  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 the Labor Law 
in 1980, designed to curb strikes, as an erosion of basic worker rights.  
The labor critics contend that these changes do not conform to ILO 
standards. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
There is no evidence that forced or compulsory labor occurs.  In theory, 
certain 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 1994, a Japanese electronics firm was fined $5,400 for 
violating the Children and Young Persons Act.  This was the first time 
that a large firm has been fined under the Act. 
 
According to credible reports, child labor is still prevalent in certain 
sectors of the country.  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.  However, 
government officials maintain that the figure is outdated as it was 
based on a nationwide survey of child labor undertaken in 1980, which 
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 do not deny 
the existence of child labor but maintain that child laborers have 
largely been replaced by foreign guest workers and that the Government 
vigorously enforces child labor provisions. 
 
   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 that 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 48 hours per workweek of 6 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.  Trade unions maintain that relatively few committees 
have been established and even in cases where they exist that they meet 
infrequently and are generally ineffective. 
 
There are currently no specific statutory or regulatory provisions which 
create a positive right for workers to remove themselves from dangerous 
workplace conditions without arbitrary dismissal.  Employers or 
employees violating the OSHA are subject to substantial fines or 
imprisonment for up to 5 years. 
 
Significant numbers of contract workers, including numerous illegal 
immigrants from Indonesia, work on plantations and in other sectors.  
Working conditions on plantations 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 they are illegal 
entrants, generally do 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.  In August the Federal Government banned 
employment agencies from recruiting foreign workers in certain sectors 
and froze the entry of workers from Bangladesh.  These actions were 
taken in response to allegations of abuse and exploitation of foreign 
workers by employees, agencies, and by police officers at the various 
detention centers around the country.  The Government has admitted that 
approximately 50 foreign workers have died while in detention but 
vigorously denies allegations by NGO's that detainees are tortured, are 
living in inhumane conditions and are not given proper medical care.  
The Government is investigating these allegations and has issued new 
guidelines on foreign worker recruitment.  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. 
 
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[end of document]

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