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Drill boosts Sino-Malaysia military ties

By Peng Yining | China Daily | Updated: 2015-09-28 07:56

Members of the People's Liberation Army and the Malaysian Armed Forces have participated in a series of maneuvers designed to test combined strategies for defense and disaster relief, as Peng Yining reports from Malaysia.

Kurim Abdullan has had searing pains in his finger joints for more than 10 years, and the 60-year-old Malaysian palm oil farmer has been saving to pay for medical treatment. Now, though, he can keep the money after receiving free treatment from a Chinese doctor wearing the uniform of the People's Liberation Army.

"The weather here is hot and humid. The people don't wear shoes and often sit on damp floors, so they can easily wind up with arthritis," said orthopedic expert Liu Shaohua as he rubbed lotion on Kurim's swollen fingers. "Most of the villagers don't speak English, but with the help of local medical staff, we handed out prescriptions and therapeutic advice," he said.

Drill boosts Sino-Malaysia military ties

Liu Shaohua, a medical expert from the People's Liberation Army, checks the reflexes of an elderly Malaysian woman on Sept 20 during the first joint live-troop exercise between China and Malaysia. Peng Yining / China Daily


Liu was one of more than 60 PLA medical staff members who participated in the first joint live-troop exercise between China and Malaysia.

Codenamed "Peace and Friendship 2015", the five-day exercise, which started on Sept 18, was the largest joint drill China has held with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In addition to regular operations, including joint maritime escorts, combined search-and-rescue missions for hijacked ships, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief were also important focuses of the first overseas joint drill for PLA medical and logistics troops.

Following an exercise with Malaysian medical troops at two field hospitals, the PLA medics visited remote villages to provide free medical services.

More than 40 Chinese medical professionals accompanied 20 Malaysian military medics to a village of the Mah Meri ethnic group, which is native to the western region of Peninsular Malaysia, to provide services.

Popularity of TCM

Jenab Anok Tok has been paralyzed for 11 years. The 80-year-old villager, who lives in a wooden shack with her 11-year-old grandson, said she is blind in the right eye and is losing the sight in the left.

Hanida Binti Baharudi, a nurse from a local hospital, said conditions are poor in the remote rainforest villages. The lack of medical facilities means villagers have to travel by road for at least 40 minutes to reach the nearest hospital, but few can afford the high transportation and medical costs. Hanida said the residents were grateful to the PLA doctors who visited their homes.

Sidin Bujang asked one of the PLA doctors for help. He has experienced trembling hands and pains in the joints for several years. After taking the pulse of the 65-year-old head of the village, Zhao Zhi-yong, an expert in traditional Chinese medicine, recommended acupuncture and herbal treatments.

"Arthritis is a common problem here because of the weather and people's life-styles," Zhao said. "Acupuncture has proved a very effective treatment for chronic pain."

Tan Hooi Mooi, a Malaysian army physician, said traditional Chinese medicine is becoming increasingly popular in Malaysia, which is why the PLA was specifically asked to send TCM experts on the joint drill.

"Last year, I was invited by China to go to Shanghai for three weeks to learn how to perform acupuncture," Tan said. "I've learned even more during this joint drill and I hope the two armies will undertake greater cooperation in the medical field."


At the opening ceremony for the drill, Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, chief of the Malaysian Armed Forces, said Southeast Asia has always been exposed to natural disasters, such as tsunamis and typhoons. The phenomenon has triggered many humanitarian challenges, which could result in social instability and chaos, not only in the afflicted country but also across the region.

"Collaborations, whether bilateral or multilateral, from within or beyond the region, have been forged to face this test," he said. "After the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 last year, China was the first country to offer a helping hand. If we continue to work together, we will be able to cooperate more effectively if a similar incident were to occur."

While inspecting medical services in the village, Major General Kamaruzaman bin Mohd Othman asked a Chinese physician to take his pulse. "It's the first time I've seen traditional Chinese medicine. The PLA medical troops are very capable and have a lot of experience," he said. "It's very common for military forces to provide humanitarian services during peacetime. And through joint medical drills, the two armies will learn to cooperate and understand each other."

The drill featured hypothetical scenarios, such as a third-party natural disaster in which China and Malaysia responded to requests for assistance.

In addition to sending the hospital ship Peace Ark to Malaysia, the PLA also set up a field hospital in a local school and held a joint drill with the 56 staff members of a Malaysian field hospital.

Lan Gang, leader of the Chinese field hospital's ICU team, received a patient with simulated cranial injuries. With the help of two Malaysian military nurses, Lan confirmed the patient was in a stable condition and put him in the ICU.

Then, using a satellite video conference system, Lan conducted a remote consultation with doctors back in China to prepare for surgery on the patient.

"It's my first time working overseas, and also the first time I've worked with a foreign army. People from both countries are combined into different groups. Before we arrived, I was a little worried about communicating with the Malaysian medical staff, but they were very professional and efficient," Lan said. "It was a delight to work with them."

During the drill, Chinese medics delivered a lecture outlining their experiences of fighting Ebola in West Africa, while the Malaysians shared their experiences of combating dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease that's common in tropical regions, and the disaster relief mission in the Philippines after the country was battered by a powerful typhoon in 2013.

"I was very impressed by the long-distance consultation system and the field hospital's water and electricity systems," said Razin Kamarulzaman, director of the Malaysian medical team. "Malaysia has been sending medical staff to China to study. I hope we will have more exchanges and cooperation with the PLA. Medical services are not just about one country, they are always international," he said.

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