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An Overview of Malaysia’s Peacekeeping in 2022

Peacekeeping is a complicated profession.

To be a UN peacekeeper, according to the United Nations is to “provide security and the political and peace-building support to help countries make the difficult, early transition from conflict to peace”. On paper, to partake in one of the 12 existing peacekeeping operations led by the UN might seem like a heroic deed, doing one’s part to make the world a better place. In practice, things are never so simple. Few should forget the largest failures of UN peacekeeping in the 1990s, such as the Rwandan civil war and the Srebrenica Massacre. Fewer still should forget the UN’s ability to keep in the peace in existing conflicts: South Sudan, the Yemeni civl war, and closer to home, the Myanmar crisis. There have also been instances of some UN peacekeeping units being accused of committing human rights abuses themselves, such as Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion, who were accused of committing torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in a letter sent by Human Rights Watch and 11 other organisations.

So where does our beloved Malaysia stand in the world of peacekeeping? In short, we have stood up on the world stage and volunteered to do our part. In October 1960, Malaysia deployed its first contingent of 3,500 Malay Special Forces of the then Malayan Armed Forces to the United Nations Operation in Congo (ONUC). When speaking of Malaysia’s peacekeepers’ performance, it is almost mandatory to highlight our role as unspoken heroes in rescuing 70 trapped US Army Rangers from being slaughtered by a Somali warlord in 1993, at the battle of Bakara. We have continued to serve bravely ever since. As of March 2022, Malaysia’s commitment to UN peacekeeping contributions consist of 850 brave men and women serving across 4 different missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Western Sahara, Lebanon, Sudan, and South Sudan. Malaysia also has a dedicated Peacekeeping Centre to produce competent peacekeepers from various military and civilian organisations in accordance with United Nations Standards.

In 2022, changing circumstances and paradigms present new opportunities and challenges to Malaysia’s peacekeeping operations. One topic which has been of particular note has been the need to involve women more in UN peacekeeping operations. On this, Malaysia has stepped up to the challenge. In 2019, Malaysia’s peacekeepers in a UNIFIL mission were highlighted in a written piece, with Malaysian female peacekeepers having been acknowledged as playing a significant role, in conducting daily operations which gained the trust and confidence of the local female population towards UN peacekeepers. More recently, the first batch from the Malaysian Battalion 850-9 (Malbatt 850-9) team has made armed forces history for having the most number of women personnel since the MAF's involvement in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) mission. In short, despite how complicated peacekeeping is, Malaysia’s men and women have done us proud overseas, and hopefully will continue to do so.

Idris is a History graduate hoping to use the past to reshape the future. Passionate about world affairs and geopolitics, Idris loves engaging in the policymaking space. He is currently working as an policy analyst at a Malaysia strategy advisory firm.

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