Matters of opinion that enables me to understand or make some sense of my country- Malaysia

Posts tagged ‘communist’

Communists from the past and Present Differing attitudes handling the issue.

BAD POLICIES, RACISM:From Siti Aishah to Azahari, Chin Peng - what‘s wrong with M'sia
 Different handling of  Communists from our past? What is the difference ? Is it in the names.? 

From Siti Aishah to Azahari to Chin Peng ? 

Simon Neoh.

The Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said there was no need to arrest Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab if she returned to the country.

Although Siti Aishah was on the ‘wanted list’ in Malaysia in the 70’s for her involvement in ‘extremist (I repeat, extremist) communist activities,’ Malaysians who have read about her plight being a slave for 30 years in London, would agree with Khalid to welcome her return with an open heart.

TV3 would probably be flashing the human interest side of the story as part of its version of Jejak Kasih, and everyone would forget Siti Aishah’s earlier years as a leftist.

She is after all a fellow Malaysian, who had her sets of beliefs. They do not call it ‘puppy love’ without a reason. Yes, it was a threat back then, when communism was very much alive. Today, a frail woman of 69, the only way Malaysians should respond is to allow her to be re-united with her family on humanitarian grounds.

Azahari and Noordin Top

Two Malaysians, Dr Azhari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top were believed to be the masterminds behind several bombings in Indonesia — the 2003 JW Marriott hotel bombing in Jakarta, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta, the 2005 Bali bombings and the 2009 JW Marriott – Ritz-Carlton bombings, and perhaps, even the 2002 Bali bombing.

If my memory does not fail me, when one of them was killed during a police raid on his hideout in Indonesia, the Malaysian government ordered for a special RMAF flight to collect his body for a proper Muslim funeral in Malaysia. This had initial shocked me, when the death of a “wanted” terrorist was given such a “heroic” treatment that some of our soldiers would dare even to dream of having.

“Gosh! What would our American friends think about Malaysia, a land of the terrorists?” I had asked myself, when I read it in the news. “And what becomes of a government that glorified the ‘martyrdom’ of its citizens out there operating as terrorists?”

But then again, when you think about it, what can a dead man do? Going by the thwarted logics of some, wouldn’t the return of his dead body revive the spirit of terrorism in this nation? Common sense tells us that a dead man for whatever cause he believes in, is as good as gone.

At least, on humanitarian ground, the wishes of his family should be granted that the dead body be given a proper burial in his home ground amidst grieving relatives.

Chin Peng

What a big contrast the political scene was less than six months ago, when an ailing 88-year-old Ong Boon Hua, born and bred in Setiawan, Perak, was hoping to return to Malaysia, but was refused entry by the Malaysian government.

The former leader of the now-defunct Malayan Communist Party (MCP) had fought against the British and Commonwealth forces in an attempt to turn Malaya into another independent communist state. He then waged a campaign against Malaya after it had gained independence in 1957 but the guerilla warfare ended when the MCP signed a peace accord with the Malaysian government in 1989.

MCP is as good as gone, with the collapse of the Berlin wall, the break-up of the former USSR, and the adoption of capitalism by the world’s only surviving Communist government. Double-headed UMNO Baru politicians, while establishing the full diplomatic ties with Communist China, told us that the return of Chin Peng, who operated mainly from Beijing, China, would open up the wounds of its veteran soldiers.

One of my own relatives was a Special Branch with the Royal Malaysian Police in the seventies, and his assignment was to fight the communist insurgency. While Siti Aishah, born and bred a Malay, is known for her ‘extremist communist activities’ in the 70s, UMNO politicians have time and again equated Communists with the Chinese. I wonder why!

During Chin Peng’s exile, although the MCP was a Malayan branch of the worldwide communist influence, the communists under him had also fought with the Thai army. Yet, the retired Thai army general was forgiving enough as to advise his counterpart in Malaysia to allow Chin Peng to return to his place of birth, but to no avail. It makes me wonder if Thai’s Buddhism has taught its people better, while UMNO Baru’s brand of Islam has only created more division amongst the people.

Instead of allowing the ailing communist leader back to his hometown, there was a big flare up of emotion, understandably of certain families who were killed by the Communists during the Insurgency. But which Chinese family did not have a relative killed by the Japanese Army, yet when former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad looked East, were the Chinese ever resentful?

Stretching this further, one has to ask: Doesn’t the word ‘forgiveness’ exist in the Malay dictionary? If Allah is great, and He is merciful, even to those who are wicked and evil, who are we to condemn Chin Peng before the great Judgment Day? In legal terms, we have committed a prejudice, or forming an opinion before a case has been brought before the judge.

Instead, Chin Peng, a Malaysian citizen, was buried in Bangkok, Thailand, much to the shame of the Malaysian Government!

What is the Big Difference?

The question is: “What is the big difference between Siti Aishah, Noordin Top, Azahari Husin and Chin Peng?”

This question has to be asked. All four of them believed in ideologies that were not friendly to Malaysians at large, but why the special treatment given to one and not the other?

To call this another form of racism is unfair to most Malaysians, because most Malaysians would in fact frown upon the Home Minister’s recent statement that he would not even allow Chin Peng’s ashes to be smuggled back into the hometown.

You can say that I am out to debunk Zahid Ahmad Hamidi’s anything but shallow thinking. If Chin Peng’s ashes would not escape the immigration checkpoint, the country should not be burdened with tens of thousands of illegal immigrants!

If the return of Chin Peng’s ashes would lead to the building of a monument to remember him, then our museums should remove all traces of the colonial days and play up only the glories of the Malacca sultanate, with big names like Tun Perak, Sultan Mansor Shah, Puteri Hang Li Po, Laksamana Hang Tuah and his four comrades with the same surnames.

When one compares this treatment against Chin Peng with other incidences and controversies, what comes out clearly is that we are allowing a minority of people to run the country with a blinker mentality. If we continue to live with such narrow minded people, we will all just go bonkers, won’t we?

UMNO elite few, who are helming the government, make their decisions based on what is politically expedient only for their own survival. While they and their cronies continue to get richer by the seconds, majority of middle and lower income Malaysians are now being increasingly burdened with higher cost of living. Period.

The goodness of GST has suddenly become a religious topic. Gosh, guns – all 44 of them – got flushed down the toilet bowl! Jets without the engines could still soar up the sky. A Sin Chew reporter was arrested under ISA for her own safety and the Mamak Prime Minister which this country had for 22 “ugly” years, for want of cheap publicity, suddenly turned his topic to talk about his erective dysfunction, much to the shame of the Kutty family tree from Kerala.

It’s time for Malaysians everywhere, including Sabah and Sarawak, to wake up! UMNO has a membership of 3 million, so it claims. This is equivalent to about 10 percent of the country’s population, but the powers that are vested in the elite few are far too great that it has led to unending abuses. And, we Malaysians have ourselves to blame for being too timid and not speaking up enough to stop this minority few from further destroying this harmony of the races in this country.

I am personally impressed with blogger Hishammuddin Rais’ courage as a person. Despite being intimidated a number of times, he soldiered on. He was also not ashamed to say that he knows Siti Aishah personally. A friend in time of need is a friend, indeed!

If Hishamuddin can stand up for a good cause, why are we so afraid to speak up? By remaining silent, this is how the perpetrators of injustice can get away easily in this “safe” side of heaven they call Malaysia, while the rest of us would in one way suffer the consequences of their wrongdoings.

Full article:


Malaysian Commie Ghosts from the Communist Past. 
Just when we think the Chin Peng fiasco has died down and the guy can rest in peace , along comes up the name of Siti Aishah to stir up sentiments again related to the communist ghost from our past that makes a comeback haunting yet again.
If one were to be a superstitious and belief in ghost and spirits then it will not be much of a stretch to imagine  Chin Peng as  a very restless and cynical spirit wandering about with a smirk on his ghostly face
 Different handling of  Communists from our past? What is the difference ? Is it in the names.?
 Fortunately  for all , this Siti Aishah incident is revealed to the public knowledge only after a decent amount of time has gone by post the controversial death of Chin Peng and the adamant stance of the BN goverment not to allow his remains back into the country. Not wishing the prospects of creating a martyr from the community.
There  would have been another front on the political war  zone. Splitting public opinion as never before, especially with the already tense environmental sentiments  along racial division , largely perpetuated  by UMNO .
One fire starter of a issue will be this Siti Aishah situation, if UMNO will have their way and figure out how to milk this by increasing the intensity of the flames.
 With a sinister will, there will be a nefarious way.
Two birds with one stone , as the all forgiving of their own kind , welcoming back  those who may have been led astray. Scoring brownie points on an emotional issue relating to their own  ethnic community,Strengthening perception of representation.
And at the same time ,with the same objectives , the vindictive vengeful nature can be exhibited with glee , against those who are different , to prove that point.
Asserting the dominance of the keTuanan rhethoric.
 Because whether they themselves believe in it or not is irrelevant. More importantly is to get the targeted mindsets to buy into it.

The one thing that is for certain will be that if she decides to come back, she will be paraded and displayed like a trophy for UMNO/BN , because she happens to be the right skin colour, showing the magnanimity and forgiving nature of UMNO to the wayward. never mind her idealogy of the past, an old lady like her now is absolutely no threat not to mention that communism / Marxist/Maoist idealogies is in death throes and soon to go where Chin Peng is at now..
She is not Chin Peng afterall. But she or her name  has the potential to be another expedient political instrument to milk for all it is worth.

Personally , she should just be another Malaysian , and deserved to be  treated like such , caught up in uncommon circumstances  of a past best overlooked.

But judging from the publicity,it is doubtful that UMNO’s instincts is going to let this slide without capitalizing or exploiting it to their advantage


Chin Peng, another insight on what his struggle was about?

sourced from
Chin Peng should be remembered in Malaysian history as an ardent freedom fighter whose party – despite its failures in succeeding in its guerilla warfare against the British and the Malaysian state – sowed the seeds for labour organisation and resistance.

P. Ramasamy is the Deputy Chief Minister of the State of Penang, Malaysia

The former secretary general of the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP), Chin Peng alias Ong Boon Hua died at the age of 88 in a private hospital in Bangkok on September 16, the day Malaysians celebrated their national day. It was on this same day, the Minister Mentor of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, celebrated his 90th birthday. According to his aide, Chin Peng will be cremated at Bangkok’s Wat That Throng temple in a week’s time. The news of Chin Peng’s death was carried in all the media in the country as well as abroad. Yet in Chin Peng’s own hometown of Sitiawan in the state of Perak, the people could only merely whisper about the passing away of this legend. Even though the MCP is gone, folks here are reluctant to talk openly about Chin Peng.

Like Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia, Malaya had its share of anti-imperialist/anti-colonial struggles in the 1940s and 1950s. In Vietnam it was led by the guerilla freedom fighter and communist Ho Chih Minh; in Indonesia it was led by (later President) Sukarno; and in Malaya it was under the leadership of Chin Peng. The MCP formed in the early 1930s first fought the Japanese and later the British. It is well known and acknowledged that without the contribution of the MCP, the British would have delayed the granting of political Independence in 1957. Today in Malaysia, the mention of Chin Peng’s name brings about mixed feelings. While his foes think that he was a traitor and a murderer responsible for so many deaths during the civil war, others regard him as a freedom fighter, a patriot and a nationalist.

Chin Peng’s –  who fought the Japanese, British and later the Malayan/Malaysian authorities –  last wish was to have his ashes buried near the graves of his parents. The Malaysian government turned down this request that came from the relatives who were there to attend the funeral. In fact, before his death, Chin Peng always harboured the desire to return to his hometown to pay his last respects to his deceased parents. His parents and his family members are buried at the Kong Hock Kong Lumut Pundut burial ground. The caretaker when interviewed said that Chin Peng’s brother and relatives would come and pay their respects every Qing Ming (All Souls Day).  But the government, apprehensive about reactions from rightist Malay organisations and former servicemen associations, refused his entry. Chin Peng even took the matter to court but he was unsuccessful because he could not produce evidence of his birth in Sitiawan. Even an international campaign that was launched to garner support for his return failed to materialise.

Chin Peng and the MCP

Chin Peng was born in 1924 in Sitiawan, Perak. His parents had a shop that sold bicycles and spare parts. He was educated in Chinese in Nan Hwa High School before continuing his education in English at Anglo-Chinese School. The MCP had an organsed presence even before Chin Peng joined the party. Under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), cells were established in Malaya to get the support of the overseas Chinese for the communist cause in China. Before the invasion of the Japanese, the MCP supported the cause of the Chinese revolution and at the same time laid the grounds for the eventual communist takeover of Malaya. In doing so, the party carefully created and sustained networks especially among the urban poor, plantation and port workers. It was only a matter of time, before a considerable section of the urban working class came to be sympathetic towards the cause of the MCP and its affiliates.

Sitiawan, the birth place of Chin Peng, is not a very impressive town. In the early days, it was surrounded by rubber and coconut plantations and small-holdings. Later, rubber was replaced by oil-palm. Only with the establishment of a naval base in nearby Lumut port in the 1970s that there was urban development in Sitiawan. The interesting thing about the state of Perak  is that it had produced a number of prominent individuals who had played a role in the MCP and left-wing organizations. Apart from Chin Peng, Rashid Mydin and CD Abdullah were prominent Malay MCP leaders from places such as Parit and Ipoh. During the Emergency, in Sungei Siput, another town in Perak, a Tamil by the name of Perumal organised plantation workers very often defying and challenging European planters. In the town of Slim River, R.G. Balan was the main labour organiser who later was promoted to be the vice-chairman of the MCP. One Panjang (tall) leader Muniandy who died some years back was a prominent MCP commander in the Sitiawan area.

I also come from a village called Kampung Baru, a few kilometers away from Sitiawan town. My father who migrated from South India had rubber and coconut small-holdings. Chin Peng’s father was known to my father. In the mid-1950s, I was around six years old; he took me to Sitiawan town and purchased a small bicycle for my use from the bicycle shop owned by Chin Peng’s family. This episode is still vivid in my memory!

It was the Japanese invasion that provided the opportunity for Chin Peng to rise in the hierarchy of the party. The British withdrawal from Malaya provided an opportunity for the MCP to enter into close collaboration with the former. The withdrawing British agreed to assist the MCP and its anti-Japanese front, the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) during the course of the occupation. Apparently, the British also agreed to recognise the MCP as a legitimate political organization on the withdrawal of the Japanese from Malaya. Much later, after the failure of the Baling Peace Talks, Chin Peng criticised the British for not honouring their commitment to the party!

With the end of World War II and just before the British arrived to re-occupy Malaya, the MCP was not certain as to what exact strategy it should adopt towards the British. Lai Tek, the party’s secretary general, later to be executed for being an agent of both the British and the Japanese, formulated a policy of limited agitation and cooperation with the British. This explains the reason why the British were able re-enter Malaya with relative ease and without resistance from the MCP. Some historians have lamented that just before the arrival of the British, the MCP was the most powerful organization in the country but it was not prepared to take power. Before the MCP could act against Lai Tek for his betrayal, he fled the country, first to Thailand and later to Hong Kong.

With the exit of Lai Tek, Chin Peng was elevated to the post of secretary general of the MCP. With his rise, the MCP abandoned its earlier strategy of limited agitation and cooperation and decided to adopt a more aggressive posture towards the British. With the support of his affiliates, the MCP decided that the time had come to evict the British from Malaya once and for all. Directives were given to his affiliates and trade unions to launch massive strikes and demonstrations against the British. With the assassination of three European planters in Perak, the British launched an all out attack against the MCP and its affiliates. In 1948 the British declared an Emergency and brought in Australian, New Zealand and Gurkha troops  to engage the communists in a long and protracted struggle. After 12 years of armed struggle, the MCP, unable to put up an effective resistance withdrew its troops to southern Thailand.  Emergency rule was effectively ended in 1960. However, guerrilla struggle waged by the MCP was not totally over. In states like Perak and Pahang, the traditional strongholds of the MCP, occasional guerrilla warfare was undertaken. The Malaysian government introduced selective emergency measures to root out the remnants of communists even during the early 1980s.

The Decline of the MCP

The British counter-insurgency measures comprised of force, administrative procedures and psychological tactics considerably weakened the MCP. By the 1970s and 1980s, a number of international developments dented the relevance of the MCP. For instance nationalist rivalry in communist camps, the animosity between USSR and China, the tensions between China and Vietnam and the pragmatic thrust of Deng Hsiao Ping’s economic policies led to the weakening of the ideological basis of the left. At the domestic level, one of the greatest weaknesses of the MCP was the lack of Malay/Muslim support. Furthermore, the party’s close identification with the Chinese community and its outward orientation towards the Chinese Communist Party were factors that did not endear the party to the local population.

Given the impossibility of launching  a communist revolution in Malaysia under changed international circumstances, Chin Peng decided to end the armed struggle. On December 2, 1989, at the Haadyai Peace Talks in Southern Thailand with both the Thai and Malaysian governments, the party decided to lay down its arms and to disband its armed units. In return, both the governments agreed to provide financial assistance for their respective nationals for re-settlement in accordance with their laws and regulations. The Malaysian government also promised that Chin Peng would be allowed to come into the country just like his comrades Rashid Mydin, CD Abdullah, Shamsiah Fakeh and many others. However, Chin Peng was in for a rude shock. Following the Haadyai Peace Accord, the Malaysian government broke its promise and refused to allow Chin Peng into the country.

Chin Peng has died. Although his role in Malaysian politics is a controversial one, it must be remembered that without the MCP, the British would not have quickened the pace of Malaysia securing Independence. In India, without the impact of the Indian National Army (INA) under Subhas Chandra Bose, it is unlikely that Independence would have been granted in 1947. Political, social and economic developments in post-war Malaysia would make no sense without any reference to the MCP. The formation of trade unions amongst urban and plantation workers was largely initiated by the MCP. The fight against plantation capital for the improvement of the lives of Tamil workforce was directly inspired by trade unions that came under the influence of the MCP. It was the MCP which  promoted and respected Indian leaders. R.G. Balan of Perak became the vice-chairman of the MCP. It also gave recognition to Malay leaders. The famous Malay Regiment in Pahang operated was under the control of the MCP.

For the Indian community in Malaysia, especially those who had involved in trade unions activities both during the British colonial days and the post-independence period, the MCP had a clear positive impact. After the INA’s debacle at Imphal, many Indians returned and joined trade unions that were affiliated to the MCP. Since they could not liberate India from the British, joining the left-wing trade unions meant not only getting back at their oppressor–the British–but also improving their socio-economic lot. It was the tremendous sacrifice of the left-wing trade unions that emboldened Indians in the plantations and urban areas. Indians labourers especially Tamils described by the British capitalists as “meek” and “docile” were organised, trained and mobilised by the MCP affiliated unions to emerge as a force to assist the MCP in its war against the oppressors.

Chin Peng might not have succeeded in organising the communist revolution in Malaysia. Malaysians might not have convinced that communism was the real solution to the myriad problems of the society. But the fact remains that he was less a communist than a left-wing nationalist. In fact, those who joined the party were not inspired so much by the lofty ideals of Marxism-Leninism, but practical necessity to change the oppressive nature of the political and economic system. During his times, it was the British colonialism and its naked oppression of the masses that was something that that any decent human being could not tolerate. Tamil plantation workers joined the MCP led trade unions not for any abstract ideological reasons, but to end the exploitative nature of the merchant capitalism in plantations. Many Malays joined left-wing nationalist organisations that came to be affiliated to the MCP not because of their love for communism, but for the sheer necessity to end the system that was oppressive and feudal in nature. Poor Chinese villagers and workers joined the movement for reasons of economic justice and for the simple reason that MCP was the only fighting force against the Japanese imperialists who massacred members of the Chinese community. For the Chinese, Malays and Indians who readily participated in the activities of the left, the MCP provided a vision for the future.


perversely,it may have been chin peng n his commie forces that forced the brits to let malaysia have an earlier independence. if their presence were not so much of a thorn for the brit imperialist,and they wud rather the locals kill locals instead of sacrificing their own kind, the brits may been reluctant to let go of the cash cow so soon before bleeding malaya dry. Who can say How long Merdeka may have been put on hold then ?

also read…illogical-commie-conspiracy-in-malaysian affairs/



Love him or Despise him and his struggles. At least understand what he was struggling for and what it was about in the proper context from a Malaysian historical perspective. .

Even if one decides to hate Chin Peng and what he stood for, at least be able to justify the sentiment with factual accounts that transpired in history leading to the formation of our independent nation.

Blind hate without understanding is foolish. Mature discerning mindsets ought not be spoon fed selective propaganda and be easily incited to despise that they know nought about.

That will be akin to be led by the nose like a buffalo..!


Chin Peng, an obituary

Chin Peng OBE

Chin Peng, born Ong Boon Hua, 21 October 1924 to 16 September 2013

The passing of Chin Peng in Bangkok on 16 September 2013 brings to an end one of the longest of Asian political biographies. Chin Peng became the Secretary General and effective leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), the country’s oldest political party, in 1947 when he was only 22.  He retained that position for the next 60 years, indeed until his death, even though the party became divided, moribund and irrelevant around him. Long after communism ceased to be a threat to Malaysia he was refused permission to return to the country of his birth (unless he publicly recanted all his views) and so he remained an exile.

The scars of that period have not healed.  The role of communists in fighting first Japanese and later British for control of Malaya is scarcely recognised in Malaysian textbooks and public memory.  Many Chinese and a few radical Malays remain unnecessarily alienated from the Malaysian establishment, and it from them, while an important but polarised chapter in Malaysia-China relations remains off the table, unable to be discussed by either side.  Chin Peng himself spent much of his later life attempting to explain and defend what he called ‘My Side of History’. One hopes that his removal from the scene, after having his say, may make the integration of a very divided history a little easier.

Just why Chin Peng came to lead Malayan communism so early in his life has much to do with accidents of his family upbringing and schooling.  Although essentially educated in the Chinese medium like the overwhelming majority of Malayan communist recruits, he had just enough English education at the beginning and end of this period to be comfortable, if a little hesitant,  in English. His elder brother and his equally committed communist wife were English-educated.  In the crisis that endangered the party in 1947, when its long-term Secretary General Lai Tek was discovered to have worked for both Japanese and British and was assassinated by the Party, Chin Peng was well placed politically to succeed, not least because his English enabled him to talk to other communities. Indeed the early years of his leadership marked a striking reorientation of the Party to being ‘Malayan’, and looking for non-Chinese recruits, rather than a branch of the Chinese party.

As a teenager he had already taken a leading part in the communist-supported Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), the most effective armed resistance to the Japanese in Malaya.  With a half-dozen other communists in the resistance he was decorated by Mountbatten in 1946. But in May 1948, as the Federation of Malaya structure disappointed non-Malay hopes for a post-war democratic order, as the British increasingly cracked down on left-wing activists, and as both sides in what became the global Cold War hardened their international stance, Chin Peng led the communists back to the jungle in armed insurrection.  The Malayan Emergency which followed was a long and ruinous guerilla struggle, involving troops from Britain, Australia and New Zealand as well as Malaya. Progress to independence was speeded to deprive the communists of their most powerful anti-colonial argument. Once the government that would carry the Federation of Malaya to independence was in place, led by the genial prince Tunku Abdul Rahman, a meeting was arranged at which the Tunku could try to persuade Chin Peng to give up the struggle since its nominal object of independence was achieved.  Chin Peng proved clear and persuasive at the 1955 Baling talks in Kedah, but insisted that he could only bring his men out of the jungle to lay down their arms if they were allowed to enter the political process as a legal party.  Under British advice the Tunku  would not agree to this, or indeed to any significant concession to the communists once they surrendered. The talks failed, and all they had changed was to provide the Malayan/Malaysian public with an image of their “enemy”–a slim soft-spoken figure who vanished from sight as suddenly as he arrived.

Chin Peng in 1956

Malaya duly became independent in 1957, to be followed in 1963 by a broader Malaysia involving also Chinese-majority Singapore and the multi-ethnic British Borneo territories. The fortunes of the MCP in the jungle gradually declined in face of an effective containment strategy, and an increasingly prosperous independent Malaya.  The MCP withdrew its central operations base to the Thai border region in 1953, to ease the military pressure. At the end of 1960, with his force shrunk from over 7,000 to fewer than 2,000 men, Chin Peng left his jungle hideout for a mammoth journey to Beijing via Thailand, Laos and northern Vietnam.  There he was an honoured guest of the Chinese government for almost 20 years, though still controlling the Party’s radio station in Hunan and by proxies the party on the Thai border.  This was a troubled time, including the Cultural Revolution in China and its counterproductive extremism in relations with the rest of the world. Chin Peng survived, but the unity of his party did not.  The internal purges in the party became severe in the late 1960s especially, with perhaps 200 executions of alleged spies and traitors. In 1970 two factions broke away from the Chin Peng mainstream, forming the Revolutionary Faction and the Marxist-Leninist Faction respectively. In 1983 they merged to form the Malaysian Communist Party, recognising the new politics of Malaysia as the older party would not.  China’s growing warmth towards Malaysia after diplomatic relations were established in 1974 meant that the MCP no longer had real support from Beijing for its armed struggle. Reconciliation should have occurred then, but each of the three parties –Chin Peng and the Chinese and Malaysian governments—had their own reasons for preferring a frozen status quo to any public change of position.  Only in December 1989 did the Thais broker a peace agreement between the Malaysian Government and the MCP, whereby the few hundred remaining communists laid down their arms and settled as cultivators in southern Thailand.  Chin Peng was no longer an asset to China, and lived thereafter primarily in Thailand.

Long-standing MCP habits of illegality and clandestinity were gradually overcome in the 1990s as governments lost their fear of communism, and Chin Peng himself sought to make his case.  Some international journalists found their way to him through Thai military contacts, and articles began appearing from 1997.  One of the enterprising journalists was Bangkok-based Australian Tony Paul. He finally managed to meet Chin Peng at the British Club in Bangkok in 1997, and encouraged his interest in writing his memoirs, in a place better served with libraries than his normal residence near Haadyai.  On his behalf Tony Paul contacted David Chandler at Monash, and then Merle Ricklefs at ANU, who delegated the matter to me. As a result Chin Peng made his first visit to Australia and New Zealand (having nephews both in Sydney and Auckland), in the course of which I took him to lunch in Canberra on 3 February 1998. He was remarkably affable, charming and thoughtful, revealing nothing of the steely side that must have enabled him to survive the lurches in the Chinese and Soviet lines over his time in charge of Malayan communism. I invited him to return for a month as a visitor at ANU working on his memoirs, in return for which we would hope for a rather intense seminar working over the history of the MCP with some experts.

A year later he was installed in the Coombs Building at ANU behind a door discreetly labeled Mr B.H. Ong.  The ANU did not fund his visit, so he stayed with Mr C.C. Chin, omniscient chronicler of the MCP, who at that time was hoping to write an ANU PhD on the subject under my supervision.  He charmed both his old antagonists and the students who gathered to hear him reminisce about “Why I became a communist”.  On 22-23 February we organised a workshop under the auspices of the newly-formed Centre for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora, where some 20 scholars grilled him about the key decisions and turning points of his long career.  Everything would be on the table, he agreed, except the two most sensitive areas for him – the internal disputes of the party and its relations with the Chinese Party.  Among those gathered for this remarkable occasion were not only the leading historians of the Malayan Emergency and the MCP –Cheah Boon Kheng, Yoji Akashi, Peter Edwards, Hara Fujio, Anthony Short, Richard Stubbs and Yong Chin Fatt—but several participants who had fought against him, notably Lt.General John Coates of the Australian Army, Leon Comber of the Special Branch, Malayan Police, and John Leary of the Malayan Scouts.  The exchanges were cordial and fascinating.  On the whole his memory was better that most of those in the room, and his thoughtfulness in reflecting on the issues was second to none.

Chin Peng & Tony Short

CP, AR, Hara Fujio, Peter Edwards

At the end of a remarkable two days of exchanges, revelations, and critiques, Chin Peng made some interesting personal observations.

Since the beginning of the ‘90s I think and think it over whether I made mistakes or not, whether my belief in communism is wrong or not. …. At least I think my conviction to seek an equal society,  that was what communism meant—to seek an equal and just society—I think that is not wrong. …And I think that human society will move on. It will take perhaps another millennium to achieve this fully, or to fundamentally achieve this.


Secondly, about the military defeat…

We were defeated in a sense, we did not realise our goal to set up a government dominated by communists. Or, in our terms, a people’s democracy. But we didn’t [experience] defeat in forcing the British to grant independence to Malaya. Without our struggle, I don’t think the British would grant independence to Malaya. Or it will be many years later…. I don’t think we were humiliated. At least I never surrender, and at least I feel proud, not for me, for our movement, for all those supporters. We can carry on a struggle, a military struggle for twelve years against a major power…This is the longest, the largest scale guerilla warfare in the British Empire, in the twentieth century.[1]

Chin Peng had shown that he was as adept at handling a group of expert academic antagonists as his own hardened guerrillas and the international forces ranged against him.  Although the transcript of this exchange was eventually published, he also sought a more controlled version of his story, as related to Ian Ward and Norma Miraflow in My Side of History (Singapore: Media Masters, 2003).  In October 2004 he was able to visit Singapore, to give a seminar and quietly meet the next most enduring regional politician, Lee Kuan Yew. That was also the last time I would see him. But despite several attempts he was never able to return to Malaysia.


Anthony Reid is Emeritus Professor and Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political & Social Change, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies at the Australian National University.



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