KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — It’s pure myth that non-Malays are not keen to join the armed forces because promotion prospects are limited for them, said MIDAS National Blue Ocean Strategy Research Centre senior director, Brig Gen Toh Choon Siang.
“This should be made aware, besides, I see what needs to be done is to implement a more ‘pull factor’ to attract them and I believe this is being done,” he said.
As a country with people of different races, national defence is the responsibility of all, nevertheless, he noted that the spirit of patriotism should be seen from all angles, not only by adorning a uniform.
Choon Siang, who is also chairman of the Army’s Chinese Community Committee, gave his views in a special interview with Bernama recently.
However, Choon Siang admitted it is difficult to see Chinese participation in the military now, especially at the lower ranks.
The father of two said when he joined the military in the 1970s, it could be said that one-third of army personnel were non-Malays, but now the number had shrunk.
He said Chinese participation in the workforce in this country, especially in the armed forces, could be classified into three groups, with the first group such as him who grew up in a military family.
“The second group looks to earnings and promotion, the third group without the requisite interest (in the military or other work) just like to do some business,” he said adding it was difficult to attract the second and third group to join the army.
“If you look at the benefits, in an effort to attract more non-Malays into the Armed Forces the government is actually offering a lot of incentives, allowances and education facilities.
“On being admitted to the National Defence University of Malaysia (UMK), all expenses are borne from hair to toe, they even get an allowance of RM1,600 and on leaving, become an officer,” he said.
At an event last month, Army Chief Gen Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, targeted at least 10 per cent Chinese and Indians from the 4,500 recruits who undergo training every year.
Choon Siang, 56, the eighth of nine siblings, served with the army for almost 38 years, and jokingly said that the warrior’s blood flowing in the family was among the factors he was in the armed forces.
He said his family’s legacy in serving in the nation’s military could be traced back to the 1940s.
His father Toh Boon Hock joined the British Air Force before the Japanese invasion in 1942, and was involved in World War II fighting against the invading Japanese army, and later served the Customs Department until his retirement.
Meanwhile, Choon Siang’s three older brothers served with Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM). Toh Tiap Keng retired with the rank of commander after serving the Royal Malaysian Navy for more than 30 years while the other two served with the Royal Malaysian Air Force as Captain (B) Toh Choon Hong and Flight Sergeant Toh Choon Kooi. — Bernama