Former communist leader dies
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Former communist leader dies

Chin Peng, the former leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), passed away at a Bangkok hospital early yesterday.

Ong Boon Hua, better known as Chin Peng, passed away at 6.20am, a thousand kilometres from his birthplace in the small town of Sitiawan in Malaysia's Perak state. His death came just a month before his 89th birthday.

His family issued a statement in Malay, Chinese and English hours after his passing, saying he had "ended a glorious life in combat and finally left all his compatriots of all races, comrades-in-arms, relatives and friends as well as the people's cause, for which he devoted his entire life, and his beloved Motherland."

The statement said Chin Peng died "after a long battle with illness".

A party leader since he was 19 years old, Chin Peng led a CPM guerrilla campaign against Japanese, British and Commonwealth forces during the 13 years of the so-called "Malayan Emergency" in an attempt to establish an independent communist state.

The formation of Malaysia, then consisting of Malaya, Brunei, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, was officially established on Sept 16, three years after Chin Peng left southern Thailand in 1960 for Beijing, which would be his base for two decades.

He waged a bloody insurgency against the newly established state from China and Thailand until signing a Bangkok-brokered peace accord with the Malaysian government on Dec 2, 1989, at a Hat Yai hotel. His requests to return to Malaysia were never approved, despite being a condition of the 1989 peace agreement.

Kuala Lumpur remains defiant even after his death, refusing to allow him to be buried in his home town for fear of him being recognised as a hero and stirring up opposition forces, Malaysian government sources said.

Funeral rites for Chin Peng will be held at Wat That Thong temple from Friday. The public can pay their respects from Friday to Sunday, while the cremation will take place at 5pm on Monday.

Ang King Hud, 59, a former member of the defunct Malayan People's Armsaid he was sad that his leader had passed away without any formal recognition from Malaysia that he was a significant part of Malaysian history.

"Sending [his ashes] home should not cause any political problem for the government," Mr Ang said.

"The Malaysian government should be open-minded to the fact that he was a nationalist leader who fought against Japanese and British invaders.

"Chin Peng was involved in independence talks led by Tunku Abdulrahman in 1956 but after the talks failed, he retreated and fought in the jungle."

A 70-year-old former CPM senior member, who spoke on condition of anonymity from Malaysia due to the political sensitivity of the issue, said anyone who studied Southeast Asian history would recognise Chin Peng as a freedom fighter.

"Thai people might not understand it clearly as Thailand has never been colonised and commoners have never been engaged in any war for independence," said the former Communist Party member. He also said young Malaysians are taught national history from a distorted perspective.

"But gradually, more people are daring to speak up through social networks about the historical facts," the source said in a telephone interview.

Chin Peng's name is frequently mentioned in online debates on Malaysian Independence Day, he said, adding that the former Communist Party leader had both detractors and admirers.

"Now he will be remembered even more as the people are demanding a change _ a breakaway from the decades-long monopoly of the one ruling ethnic-based party," the Malaysian source said.

The ill-feeling between the Malays and the Malaysian-Chinese was an "inheritance from the British to the United Malays National Organisation to divide and rule, to wage political victory with a policy of ethnic phobia policy," the former communist said.

He said this was similar to how Thai authorities negatively portrayed CPM fighters residing in Thailand's far South.

Thanet Abhornsuvan, Thammasat University's history professor agreed that Thais had a negative perception of Chin Peng and his communist guerrillas.

"Media reports always labelled them as communist bandits who raided or threatened traders and local people for ransom until the peace deal was signed in Songkla province," Mr Thanet said.

He called on Thais to study the history of outlawed movements, such as Thai communists, Malaysian communists, or Muslim separatists, and gain an insight into their perspectives, rather than merely siding with the authorities' portrayals of them.

Gen Akanit Muansawad, one of the key military liaison officers who helped clinch the peace deal between the Malaysian government and the CPM 24 years ago, said the Thai army had played a crucial role in achieving peace in Malaysia.

Through negotiations and collaboration between Chin Peng and Kuala Lumpur, the CPM's insurgent activities along the Thai-Malaysian border finally ended, said Gen Akanit, who has retired from military service.

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