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Last Updated: Monday, 8 December, 2003, 01:28 GMT
Malaysian youth face call-up

Jonathan Kent
The BBC's correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

School leavers in Malaysia will be finding out from Monday whether they have been picked for national service programme.

The country's defence minister, who is in charge of the new programme, has also threatened to conscript adults to act as instructors because of a shortage of volunteers.

Young people walk past Kuala Lumpar's Petronas Towers
Conscripted students would go on a 12-week course

From Monday, Malaysian teenagers can check whether they are to be called up by sending a mobile phone text message to the Defence Ministry.

If they have been drafted they will be notified in the same way.

The first batch to be inducted will start a 12-week course in February.

It will consist of military style instruction, outdoors activities and community service.

The scheme is Malaysia's response to concerns that the country's various races are becoming increasingly isolated from one another.


It is hoped national service will encourage the young to form friendships beyond their own ethnic groups.

However the problem appears to go beyond young people.

Malaysia's Defence Minister says there is a shortage of instructors from all the country's ethnic groups, except from the Malay community.

He says he will conscript adults to fill the posts unless volunteers come forward.

Critics of national service say the real reasons for Malaysia's growing ethnic divide is 30 years of race-based affirmative action policies which hand the Malay majority government contracts, jobs, subsidised housing and educational opportunities.

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