Former Malaysian communist leader dies in Thailand
- Published: 16/09/2013 at 06:54 PM
- Online news:
The former leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) Chin Peng died in a Bangkok hospital on Monday, as Malaysia celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence.
At the end of World War II, the British awarded Chin Peng the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his heroics in leading guerrillas against the Japanese. The next day, Chin Peng went to the jungle to fight British colonialism _ and the British rescinded his wartime award. (Photo from Chin Peng: My Side of History published in Singapore)
Ong Boon Hua, better known as Chin Peng, died at 6.20am, 11 days after being admitted to hospital and just a month before he could celebrate his 89th birthday in exile, some 1,000 kilometres from his birthplace in Sitiawan.
A statement released to the media said he had died ''after a long struggle with illness''.
Chin Peng, who was born into a middle class family in 1924, led the anti-colonialist party's insurgency against both British and Commonwealth forces and Japanese invaders during the 1940s.
Chin Peng led the MCP's guerrilla insurgency and fought against British and Commonwealth forces to establish an independent communist state.
The insurgency officially ended on Dec 2, 1989, when the Malaysian government signed a Thai-brokered peace treaty with the MCP, less than a month after the Berlin Wall came down.
For his resistance activities during the Japanese occupation of Malaya (1941-1945), he was awarded the Order of the British Empire, one of Britain's highest accolades.
However, when the British colonialists returned, Chin Peng went directly to the jungle to lead the CPM during the period known as the Emergency, the bloodiest time in the country's modern history. The British withdrew his wartime OBE award.
Some 10,000 people are believed to have been killed during the Emergency.
The CPM was banned in 1948 at the start of the Malayan Emergency civil war that would go on to claim thousands of lives over 12 years.
Malaysia, then consisting of Malaya, Brunei, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, was officially established on Sept 16, 1963.
Chin Peng, waged a bloody insurgency against the new state from exile in China and Thailand until signing a Bangkok-brokered peace deal with the Malaysian government on Dec 2, 1989 in Hat Yai city, Songkhla.
His requests to return to Malaysia were never approved, despite contravening a condition in the 1989 peace agreement.
His last request to pay a final tribute to his ancestor's graves in the small town of Sitiawan, Perak, was flatly denied because Malaysia's election was drawing near, and Kuala Lumpur did not want sensitive factors swaying support for the ruling National Front coalition, government sources said at the time.
The Malaysian government remains adamant that he will not be buried in his native town for fear of him being recognised a hero and stoking up opposition forces inside the country.
Ang King Hud, 59, former member of the defunct Malayan People's Army, said he was sad that Chin Peng had died without any formal recognition of the significant role he played in Malaysian history, arguing that returning his ashes to the country should not cause political setbacks for the government.
"The Malaysian government should be open-minded to the fact that he was a normal nationalist leader who fought against Japanese and British invaders," said the Hat Yai-based former rebel.
Mr Ang said he believed many people became CPM members because they were nationalists rather than communists, and their voices were not being recognised elsewhere.
A 70-year-old former senior member of the CPM, who spoke on condition of anonymity from Malaysia, said anyone who studied the history of Southeast Asian independence would recognise Chin Peng as a freedom fighter.
"For Malaysians, even the younger generation, many of them know Malaysian history from a distorted perspective," he said. "But slowly, more people are gradually daring to speak up through social media networks about the reality."
Chin Peng and his fighters were negatively portrayed in Thailand, the party member said. "Thai people might not understand it clearly as Thailand has never been colonised," he explained.
Thanet Abhornsuvan, Thammasat University's history professor, agreed that Chin Peng and his communist guerrillas were viewed negatively by many Thais.
"Media reports always labelled them as Chinese communist bandits who raided or threatened traders and local people for ransoms. Even until the peace agreement was signed in Songkla province, Thais still looked negatively to him and his party," said Mr Thanet.
He called on Thais to educate themselves about the history of outlawed movements, whether they be Thai communists, Chinese Communists, or Muslim separatists.
Gen Akanit Muansawad, one of the military liaison officers who helped clinch the peace deal between the Malaysian government and the CPM 24 years ago, said the Thai army had a track record of solving serious insurgency problems in southern Thailand.
Through negotiations and collaboration with Chin Peng, CPM skirmishes along the Thai-Malaysian border were finally brought to an end, said the retired officer.
Chinese ceremonies for Chin Peng will be held at Wat That Thong on Friday, while Thai ceremonies and his funeral and cremation will take place on Monday at the same temple.
In this photo taken Nov, 27, 2009, Malaysia's most well-known former communist guerrilla Chin Peng speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Hat Yai city. Chin Peng died on Monday at 88.(AP photo)
About the author
- Writer: Achara Ashayagachat