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Here’s why Mat Sabu claims Malaysia’s military strength is the worst in South East Asia

The Dewan Rakyat sessions have been ongoing for awhile now and boy oh boy has it been entertaining to say the least. From Lim Guan Eng claiming that RM18 billion had been ‘robbed’ by the previous administration to Bung Mokhtar’s antics, the politicians have pretty much been writing the headlines themselves. However, amidst all the drama in parliament, you may have missed this comment from Mat Sabu, our Defence Minister:

Screenshot from Malaysiakini

Screenshot from Malaysiakini

“In terms of the air force, navy, etc, we sit at the last place. Vietnam is far ahead of us and Indonesia is number one. I will work hard to make Malaysia great again, to become number one again,” – Mat Sabu, as quoted by Malaysiakini

Yeah… so Trum- we mean, Mat Sabu’s comments about our military strength were pretty out there, like, we’re quite sure admitting that we have a poor military is probably not in Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Indeed, many people however have come out and retaliated against Mat Sabu’s comments about our military strength – or rather, lack of it. Senator Ti Lian Ker voiced his disapproval of Mat Sabu’s comments, saying that telling the Dewan Rakyat of our poor military would only demoralise our troops while alerting terrorists and foreign militants that we’re weak and are a vulnerable target.

Name's Sabu, Mat Sabu. Image from The Star

Name’s Sabu, Mat Sabu. Image from The Star

Even Mat Sabu’s own aide, Amin Iskandar, had to release a statement on behalf of the Defence Ministry, claiming that Mat Sabu didn’t mean to say that we’re the weakest, but rather that we need to improve before we get left behind.

“The Armed Forces is ready and prepared to defend the country’s sovereignty… However, there is a need for the Armed Forces to strengthen its military assets…,” – Amin Iskandar, Mat Sabu’s aide, as quoted by Malaysiakini

This isn’t the first time Mat Sabu had revealed our military weaknesses since taking charge either. Just last month, Mat Sabu claimed that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) isn’t able to maintain our fleet of fighter jets, and that out of the 28 fighter jets that we have, only four can fly. We’re not military experts by any means, but having just four functional fighter jets does seem kinda underwhelming to say the least.

His comments got just thinking tho… is our military really that bad?


The Malaysian army isn’t as bad as you think it is

So according to our own Defence Minister, we have the worst military in South East Asia. Like, are we gonna have to resort to throwing durians over our enemies if a war breaks out?



Well, you may be surprised to know then that actually we’re NOT the country with the worse military in South East Asia. According to Global Firepower, a military analyst site, Malaysia’s military strength isn’t the worst in the region, altho it’s definitely not the strongest either. In fact, we’re dead in the middle among the countries listed by Global Firepower:

Well, at least Malaysia isn't in last place, right...? Screenshot from Global Firepower

Well, at least Malaysia isn’t in last place, right…? Screenshot from Global Firepower

Actually not bad laa our army. You probably won’t find any good-looking oppas like those in Descendants of the Sun, but our military can boast some decent numbers laa. However, it’s also perhaps worth mentioning that Global Firepower’s statistics and subsequent military power ranking may not be 100% accurate laa, as they also acknowledge that they’ll have to make educated guesses if they can’t get a legit source.

Awaiting the more local version of the show, Keturunan daripada Matahari. Image from Yibada

Awaiting the more local version of the show, Keturunan daripada Matahari. Image from Yibada

So yes, while Malaysia is weaker than Vietnam and Indonesia – the two countries cited by Mat Sabu – we aren’t exactly in last place as he claims either. However, if we look back to what Mat Sabu’s aide said, we’d see that he’s not referring to pure military strength, which we can be somewhat satisfied with. Instead, it’s the military assets that they’re saying aren’t good enough. And sadly that seems to be true, because…

SINGAPOKE Birthday Wish I: 49 years only ah...?


Apparently our boys don’t have the best equipment available

When you buy tanks for the army but forget the guns. Image from foodstamp001

When you buy tanks for the army but forget the guns. Image from foodstamp001

Andrin Raj, who’s the Southeast Asia regional director for the International Association of Counter-terrorism and Security Professionals, Centre for Security Studies (basically he’s an expert laa), says that Mat Sabu’s comments are true and is actually pointing out a problem that our military has been facing for years.

According to Andrin, our military assets are considered bad because a lot of them don’t fit our country’s specific needs. Put it this way, imagine if you needed a car for Malaysia, and you end up buying a car with a sunroof and a heater.

“Malaysia’s defence assets are considered lowly ranked in Southeast Asia because some assets do not provide the protection needed to safeguard the nation from domestic and international threats. Some do not fit the environment and geo-political landscape that they should be operating in,”- Andrin Raj, security expert, as quoted by New Straits Times

Andrin Raj, security expert. Image from Counter Terror Asia

Andrin Raj, security expert. Image from Counter Terror Asia

On top of that, Andrin claims that a lot of our military assets aren’t good enough and don’t fit our needs because of politically-motivated purchases. Let’s say you told your parents that you needed a new computer because your old one isn’t working that well, and they go out and buy a PS4 because they don’t know any better.

In the same sense, these politicians who perhaps don’t understand what the military needs end up buying some weird stuff that end up being a huge waste of money.

“The decline in the performance of these sub-standard assets over the years is due to the decisions of politicians who had no clue as to what defence and security implies. The chiefs of the tri-forces of the military had little control over this,” – Andrin Raj, as quoted by New Straits Times

Of course that’s not to say our military is bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.


Our troops actually have a pretty good track record

If you’ve watched the B-grade action movie Black Hawk Down, congratulations, that makes one of us. But in case you haven’t, here’s a quick synopsis: in 1993, a group of American soldiers performing a raid in Somalia were trapped in Mogadishu, Somalia, and the movie chronicles the subsequent rescue-slash-escape mission of the Americans.

Here’s the thing tho: it’s based on a real incident, and the rescue team actually comprised of over 100 Malaysian soldiers.

Unedited image from the Black Hawk Down movie

Unedited image from the Black Hawk Down movie

Unfortunately, our role in the Somalian rescue mission had been downplayed quite a bit, with the movie not even depicting our troops fairly. In fact, it took the Americans 20 years before they finally thanked us for what we did in Black Hawk Down.

That’s not even everything too! Our boys have been all over the world in humanitarian and peace-keeping missions for the United Nations, with our troops having set foot in over 10 countries since 2012 alone. We even wrote about our military and its strengths before too, which you can read by clicking here.

While we may snicker and laugh when we read headlines such as ‘Only four fighter jets can fly’, we should also take some time to realise that these guys are often hard at work protecting us and the place we all call home. After all, it’s a pretty tough job especially when it means risking your life to ensure the safety of others.

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