Malaysia’s National Service Training Programme, or Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN), is Malaysia’s 3-month national service program that selectively drafts 18-year-old youths to spent 2 months in physical training camp, followed by a final month in a university setting.
In 2015, the program was suspended for a year as a preemptive measure to sustain development and economical growth for the country. The announcement was made by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during a special session at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre in view of falling oil prices.
The revision was expected to save the government RM400 million and the National Service Training Programme was to be reviewed and enhanced.
About a year later, a “new and improved” National Service Training Programme, “PLKN 2.0”, was launched, with an upgraded set of “more streamlined and compact” modules that focuses on equipping trainees with job skills that could help them in the real world.
However, the program continued to be plagued with claims of poor management right from its inception in December 2003, including the way in which conscripts are selected. Not only has there been 16 trainee deaths to date, one of the other main concerns was the programme uses a selection system where the government computer database system picks up the trainees randomly without considering their social status e.g. poor teenagers who need to work for their living, young mothers with newborn babies, etc.
The good news is that it is no longer compulsory for teenagers to attend the program.
According to the National Service Training Department, selected youths can now opt out of it under the revamped PLKN2.0. The department’s director Datuk Mohmed Asri Yusof said that trainees who have a change of heart while at the camp as well as those with health problems will not be forced to stay on, adding, “this is not the army, we don’t want to torture them”.
As such, only volunteers would now be selected for the revamped programme.