RELA (Malaysia)

Country: Malaysia
Details of Formation: RELA (Malaysian People’s Voluteer Corps or Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia) was renamed and reorganized in 1972. The former group name was Voluntary Home Guard. The original aim was to preserve national security and fight communists. It was transformed in 2005 with the passing of the amendment to the Essential Rules Emergency Act to handle immigration-related tasks from this point on.
Details of Termination: RELA still existed in 2014.
Purpose: The group was initially established to fight communists, focusing mainly on information gathering, according to news sources. But when the threat from insurgency subsided its purpose shifted. RELA was subsequently used for immigration-related tasks, e.g. administering immigration detention centres and hunting down illegal immigrants - especially undocumented, and in practice also documented, workers. Another component was to assist police as reinforcement in operations such as crime-fighting.
Organisation: The group’s Director General was Haji Bujang Haji Hassan. It is organised to operate in platoons consisting of 33 people and conducted joint operations with the police and Immigration Department, in which it was always supposed to be subordinated to the official forces. Amnesty International reports that the PGM lacked a structure of command responsibility. There are also reports of the construction of a youth squad.
Weapons and Training: The government gave RELA the permission to carry weapons. Members were armed with firearms and shotguns, although this only applied to approximately 10 percent of members. Training centres were run by the group in various locations, training about 2,500 individuals per year, but it is reported that many members remained untrained.
Size: In 1995 there were about 235,000 members (221,000 male and 14,000 female), of which 126,000 signed up in 1990. The group grew significantly in the following years, first to almost 500,000 (2007), then 2 million (2011) and finally 3.3 million (2013).
Reason for Membership: --
Treatment of Civilians: The group was accused of human rights abuses (especially against refugees and migrants), physical abuse, extortion, arbitrary detainment and illegal raids. It injured and killed civilians, although this is only reported in one instance. There are accounts of forcible expulsion and harassment of suspected illegal migrants. Members are reported to have operated without accountability due to weak command structures.
Other Information: RELA: Malaysian Peoples Volunteer Corps (Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia; Pasukan Sukarelawan Malaysia). Some sources indicate that a sub-group of RELA, called RELA youth squad, exists. The group wore different uniforms than Civil Defence and police. Besides the already mentioned ethnic groups, it is reported that, although the majority of members was Malay, some other ethnic minorities are part of the PGM as well (Chinese, Indian and others which are not specified in sources). The government encouraged the achievement of a multi-ethnic composition of the group to promote racial integration.
References: Amnesty International. 2010a. “Malaysia arrests migrants as crackdown continues.” 29 March 2010.

Amnesty International. 2010b. “Malaysia should halt expansion of security force accused of abuses.” 19 August 2010.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD.

Wikipedia. “The People’s Volunteer Corps.”