COIN MALAYA

COIN MALAYA
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“Forty years ago when we were studying what was then called ‘Guerrilla Warfare,’ the Army taught us that there were just three successful cases where a legitimate government in power had beaten back a Communist insurgency. They were the Philippines, Greece, and Malaya. In the Philippines the victory against the HUKs was won by land reform, in Greece by tightening the borders and not allowing the guerrillas to slip into Albania for refuge and resupply, and in Malaya by separating the insurgents from the general population and letting them starve in the jungle. Since that time, there have been dozens of insurgencies, some successful, some not…..”
(Psychological Warfare of the Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960, SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) at PSYWAR.ORG)
Among the battle-seasoned veterans who marched down Piccadilly in London’s 1945 Victory Day Parade was a flap-eared Chinese lad who wore the Order of the British Empire. No one who noticed slim, sickly Chin Peng that day could have guessed that in a few years he would be responsible for 7,000 Commonwealth casualties, including 4,000 dead and missing.
A Communist long before World War II, Chin Peng earned his O.B.E. honestly. British Intelligence Officer Lieut. Colonel F. Spencer Chapman, who spent 3½ years dodging the Japanese in Malayan jungles, called him “Britain’s most trusted guerrilla representative.” Malayan-born Chin, who speaks fluent English, Malay and several Chinese dialects, was on the receiving end of secret British submarine landings and air drops in occupied Malaya. He fought the Japanese bravely and shrewdly, but always with Communist ends.
After London’s Victory Parade, Chin went visiting among Chinese and South Asian Communists, soon picked up the new “imperialist” line on his old World War II allies. When the secretary general of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) ran out with the party’s funds in 1947, Chin stepped into the party leadership. The next year he began a reign of terror to drive the British out of Malaya and set up a Communist state. Soldiers and civilians, men, women & children fell to the bullets of his tight, 5,000-man gang. Chin’s tactics were modeled on his guerrilla experience. His arms were mostly British weapons air-dropped during the war and cached in jungle hiding places.
The Communist war in Malaya has been deeply embarrassing to the British. So has Chin Peng. They quietly withdrew his O.B.E. in 1948, but for years did not name him as the leader of the Communists. The advantage was Chin’s: his terror gained from being secret and anonymous.
In May 1952) Britain’s dynamic General Sir Gerald Templer, new High Commissioner for Malaya, upped the price on the heads of 26 of Malaya’s Communist guerrilla leaders. But for 31-year-old Chin Peng, believed hiding in the Pahang jungles, Templer offered the highest reward. He would pay, he said, $42,000 for Chin’s dead body, or $83,500 for Chin alive. A Singapore wag pointed out that $83,500 was no more than the first prize in the Malayan Chinese Association Lottery. It is also exactly what Chin’s operations cost the British in Malaya each day.
(TIME.com)
Succeeding Winston Churchill, Attlee was Prime Minister during the vital years between 1945 and 1951. His government’s foreign policy was marked by contradictions: the seemingly eager move away from colonial rule in the sub-continent contrasted with a ‘new colonialism’ in Africa. The British administration’s policy in post-war Malaya was also characterised by contradictions and changes of heart.
The withdrawal of Japan at the end of World War II left the Malayan economy disrupted. Problems included unemployment, low wages, and scarce and expensive food. There was considerable labor unrest, and a large number of strikes occurred in 1946 through 1948. The British administration was attempting to repair Malaya’s economy quickly, especially as revenue from Malaya’s tin and rubber industries was important to Britain’s own post-war recovery. As a result, protesters were dealt with harshly, by measures including arrests and deportations. In turn, protesters became increasingly militant. On 16 June 1948, the first overt act of the war took place when three European plantation managers were killed at Sungai Siput, Perak.
The British brought emergency measures into law, first in Perak in response to the Sungai Siput incident and then, in July, country-wide. Under the measures, the MCP and other leftist parties were outlawed, and the police were given the power to imprison without trial communists and those suspected of assisting communists.
The MCP, led by Chin Peng, retreated to rural areas, and formed the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), also known as the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA), or the Malayan People’s Liberation Army (MPLA). The MNLA began a guerrilla campaign, targeting mainly the colonial resource extraction industries, which in Malaya were the tin mines and rubber plantations.
(From Wikipedia)
The communist terrorists, many of whom were Chinese, began disrupting village life in the jungles of the newly established Federation of Malaya (under the rule of a British high commissioner). They carried on hit-and-run guerrilla warfare against army outposts, police stations, and other government places; a state of emergency was declared, and British and indigenous Malay forces fought back. In 1949, an intense campaign was mounted against the guerrillas, hundreds of whom were slain or captured. One effect of the jungle warfare was to bring leaders of the various ethnic and religious communities closer together with more mutual understanding. The government-implemented Briggs plan (1950) resettled so-called “squatter” Chinese farmers, who were easy prey for raiding guerrillas, in protected Malay areas. In 1951, the terrorists increased their activities, destroyed rubber trees, intimidated plantation workers, and assassinated the British high commissioner. In 1952, Sir Gerald Templer (1898-1979), the new high commissioner, headed the government forces and began a concerted anti rebel campaign, and encouraged cooperation among the diverse Malay peoples. Rigid food control in suspected rebel areas forced many terrorists to surrender or starve. By 1954, the communist high command in Malaya had moved to Sumatra. After the Malay Federation became an independent state in the British Commonwealth (1957), the war petered out; increasing numbers of terrorists surrendered (a government amnesty was offered to them in 1955, and many accepted it). Still, a hard core of several hundred communist guerrillas continued to operate in the thick jungles along the Malay-Thai border until 1960, when they were defeated.
(Wars of the World)
Templer was a hands-on manager and was famous for flying to trouble spots. Sometimes his chastising of the villagers had humorous consequences. Noel Barber mentions such a case after a guerrilla ambush caused Templer to immediately fly to the nearest village where he harangued the collected inhabitants:
“You’re a bunch of bastards,” shouted Templer; and Rice, who spoke Chinese, listened carefully as the translator announced without emotion: “His Excellency informs you that he knows that none of your mothers and fathers were married when you were born.”
Templer waited, then, pointing a finger at the astonished villagers to show them who was the ‘Tuan’ or Master, added “You may be bastards, but you’ll find out that I can be a bigger one.” Missing the point of the threat completely, the translator said politely, “His Excellency does admit, however, that his father was also not married to his mother.”
(Templer is praised by Dr. Klev I. Sepp in ‘Best Practices in Counterinsurgency,’ Military Review, May-June 2005)
During the 1950s Malaya Emergency, Sir Gerald Templer a declared antiracist strived for political and social equality of all Malays. He granted Malay citizenship en masse to over a million Indians and Chinese; required Britons to register as Malay citizens, elevated the public role of women; constructed schools, clinics, and police stations; electrified rural villages; continued a 700% increase in the number of police and military troops; and gave arms to militia guards to protect their own community. In this environment, insurgent terrorism only drove people further from the rebels and closer to the government.
Sunderland points out how Templer brought everyone into the fold: Templer took office in February 1952. On midnight, 14 September, 1,100,000 Chinese and 2,630,000 Malayans became what were called “federal citizens.”
(PSYWAR.ORG)
In July 1961, Chin Peng met Deng Xiaoping in China. Deng had proposed to the MCP that it conduct a second an armed struggle. Deng insisted that Malaya should revolt and used the success of the Vietnam Communist Party in the Vietnam War as MCP propaganda to launch a second revolt in Malaya. Deng later promised Chin Peng that China would assist the MCP and promised to give the MCP US $100,000 for the second insurgency in Malaya.
On 1 June 1968, the Central Command of the MCP issued a directive entitled “Hold High the Great Red Banner of Armed Struggle and Valiantly March Forward.” The MCP was ready to start a new insurgency in Malaysia. On 17 June 1968, to mark the 20th anniversary of their armed struggle against the Malaysian Government, the MCP launched an ambush against security forces in the area of Kroh–Betong in the northern part of Malaysian Peninsular. They achieved a major success, killing 17 members of the security forces. This event marked the start of the second armed revolt of the MCP…
(From Wikipedia)
“Chin Peng is not a Hakka, but a Hokkien. Chin Peng is not his real name, but the paty name. His surname is Ong (Wang=King) Eng (Yong=forever) can’t remember his third name. He was born in Sitiawan in the district of Dinding near Pangkor Island, the famous island resort. He was educated in Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) Ipoh, the capital of the State of Perak, Malaysia. His father owned a bicycle shop in Sitiawan. He was not the founder of the MCP which was founded by Yuen Ai Guo (later he changed his name to Ho Chi Ming, the father of modern Vietnam), a North Vietnamese in Singapore in 1935. After the formation of MCP he went back to Vietnam and left his assistant called Loi Tek to be in charge of the MCP. Loi Tek became the Secretay-Genral of MCP.
Three months before the Japanese attacked Malaya, the British Government in England sent Lieutenant Colonel Spencer Chapman to Singapore with the intention to train a special force called 136 to remain behind if Japan overran Malaya. Just ten days before the Japanese attacked Malaya in December 1941 the colonial authority accepted to train 165 Communists at the 101 Special Training School in Singapore. Later when the Japanese occupied Malaya these 165 Communists became the core of the Malayan People’s Anti- Japanese-Army (MPAJA) which in 1943 came under the command of the British officers from Force 136. The commander of Force 136 was Colonel Chapman who stayed behind with the Communists throughout the Japanese occupation of 3 years and eight months. He was the military instructor of the MPAJA and Chin Peng was with him most of the time.
During the war Loi Tek, the Secretary-General of MCP, was a double agent. In order to consolidate his control of the MCP Loi Tek informed the Japanese on the upcoming meeting of top senior Communists in Batu Cave near Kuala Lumpur on 31 August-1 September 1942. During the meeting the Japanese surrounded the cave. Chin Peng and Loi Tek were present in the meeting. The Japanese killed almost all the senior executive officers (most of them were Hakkas) of the MCP. Chin Peng, Loi Tek and a few other communists escaped.
After the war, many senior members of the MCP suspected that Loi Tek betrayed the Batu Cave Conference to the Japanese. The Central Committee planned to meet on 6 March 1947. Loi Tek did not turn up in the meeting because he had alreday disappeared with the MCP’s fund. The disappearance of Loi Tek gave the MCP a great blow. Later the MCP Central Committee elected Chin Peng as the new Secretary-General of MCP. Many communists believed that Loi Tek went back to North Vietnam.”
(Is Chin Peng of Communist Party of Malaya a Hakka by CHUNG Yoon-Ngan at asiawind.com)
“The collaboration of the MCP-led Malayan national resistance forces with the British worked successfully, but it was always an arm’s length collaboration. Anticipating future conflict with the British, a MCP underground army stashed 5,000 weapons in jungle caches, many supplied by the British for the war against the Japanese. But rather than preparing for a serious struggle against the British, the programme outlined by the MCP, under the pressure of its then leader Lai Te, was watered down: from a ‘democratic republic’ of Malaya, which would involve independence from the British, to ‘self governance’. Chin Peng and his comrades were imprisoned by the Stalinist theory of ‘stages’: first bourgeois democracy and independence; and only later could the social issues, and particularly socialism, be posed. However, only by linking the struggle of Malayan workers and peasants for independence with the social issues – freedom, especially from imperialism, land, peace and bread – would the possibility of real national liberation be posed.
The government introduced the Federation of Malaya on 4 February 1948, a blow to the MCP’s perspective of national independence. This set in train the decision of the MCP to engage in rural guerrilla warfare. To say the least, this was a questionable conclusion to draw from the experiences of the Malayan workers and peasant…
The MCP was clearly influenced by the success of Mao Zedong in the Chinese revolution. But while the struggle was heroic, a defeat ensued because the MCP lacked a clearly worked-out perspective. Chin Peng gives the statistics on the population of Malaya at the time: “5.8 million people, of whom 2.2m were Malays, another 2.6m were Chinese and a further 600,000 were Indians”. Moreover, why engage in a guerrilla war, by its very nature focused in rural areas, when such an important class base had been established in the cities and urban areas, as well as in the countryside? The guerrilla struggle of Mao Zedong was itself an echo of the defeat of the Chinese revolution of 1925-27, which was a product of the false policies of Joseph Stalin and the Russian bureaucracy.
The aim of the MCP was to establish not a socialist regime but – as in China, Vietnam and Eastern Europe – a ‘people’s democratic republic’ of Malaya. Chin Peng says: “In hindsight, I think we made another critical mistake here. What we should have done was to announce our aim of fighting for the broad concept of independence. This approach should have gone on to emphasize independence for all political persuasions and all races. Our battle cry should have been: Independence for Malaya and all Malayans who want independence”…
Some of the most interesting chapters deal with the methods of the British in successfully curtailing the guerrilla war. Lieutenant-General Harold Briggs was its rather reluctant director of operations. His plan involved the establishment of ‘new villages’ throughout Malaya. These were fenced, patrolled and fortified centers, illuminated at night and continually monitored by day. They complemented the policy of dividing the population along ethnic lines, and isolated them as a possible source of food for the guerrillas.
The author admits that (Chin Peng) attracting significant numbers of Malays to the guerrilla forces and, more importantly, support from the poorest sections was crucial to the success of their struggle. In a six-month period from late 1949 to early 1950, the guerrillas were able to attract more than 500 Malay recruits. Unfortunately, when they were attacked by KMT bandits organized by the British High Command, they melted away or were captured. Isolated, with dwindling food supplies, the guerrillas faced a brick wall: “The realization that a military approach from late 1948 through to 1951 had been utterly inappropriate was a bitter pill to swallow”.
Chin Peng deals with the repressive methods of the British at length. He reproduces the famous photograph that first appeared in the Daily Worker (the then paper of the British Communist Party) on 10 May 1952. It showed a British soldier holding the severed heads of two guerrillas. Truly, the barbaric al-Qaida inspired terrorist groups in Iraq had good teachers in the form of British imperialism in Malaya, Kenya and elsewhere in the past. But by 1953, almost five years since the guerrilla struggle to evict the British began, “it was very obvious we held no territory, no liberated zones”. The guerrillas were forced northwards over the border to Siam, now Thailand…”
Despite the weaknesses of the MCP, it struggled on until 1987 when successful ‘peace negotiations’ began in the Thai resort of Phuket. When all hostilities ceased, the total number of MCP members was 1,188: 694 were Thai-born and 494 claimed Malaysian origin. They were given temporary grants and promised integration into Malaysia. Chin Peng never returned officially to Malaysia but has continued his exile in Thailand up to the time of the publication of this book.
(End of Empire: Memoirs of a Malaysian communist guerrilla leader, My Side of History By Chin Peng, Published by Media Masters, 2003, Reviewed by Peter Taaffe at socialistworld.net)
The Communists were fairly successful in their campaign of terror, killing a total of 400 civilians and torturing many others during the first year of the uprising. Their activities did not extend into the urban centers, but they ran wild in the rural rubber plantations, tin mines, smaller villages and railway stations.
They embarked on a protracted war, but the cost was high both in military and political terms. In the first three years of its operations, the MCP lost 2,842 men while the government security forces lost 971 killed and 954 wounded. Official statistics indicate that by the end of the 12-year Emergency, 6,710 insurgents were killed, 1,287 were captured, and 2,702 surrendered.
(PSYWAR.ORG)

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