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Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen and the Dilemma of Partisan Duality*

  • Hugh Wilson (a1)


Lingering recollections of Pattani's proud tradition as an independent state were crystallized into a popular desire for the separation of the predominantly Malay Southern Provinces from Thailand, largely as a result of the aggressively nationalistic policies of Phibul Songkhram's wartime administration; when the war ended, widely circulated rumours encouraged Malays in the area to believe that the United Kingdom intended to annex the region to British Malaya as part of a peace settlement. Although this hope was dashed by the Agreement between the two countries of January 1, 1946, the idea of separation from Thailand continued to provide a goal towards which a variety of groups struggled by means ranging from polemics to sporadic acts of violence.



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1 Transcript of interview of Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen by Barbara Whittingham-Jones (Typescript, undated; hereafter “T.M.M. transcript”). This material is to be found in The Jones Papers: Transcripts of letters and papers, news-letters, notes, etc., collected by Miss Barbara Whittingham-Jones on Indonesia, Malaya, and Thailand during the Second World War, 1940–45, Ms. 145982 (hereafter “Jones Papers”). These papers are held in the Library of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. It might be noted that, title notwithstanding, the papers include material up to 1948. Miss Whittingham-Jones (Mrs. H.R. Oppenheim) was a free-lance journalist and sometime Special Correspondent for the Observer and the Economist. Mahmud Mahyiddeen's name is variously rendered Mahydeen, Mahyiddin, Mahyidden, Muyidu'd-in.

2 T.M.M. transcript; and “Obituary”, The Malayan Historical Journal 1, no. 1 (May, 1954): 6061. The Tengku's older brother had been sent to the prestigious Kuala Kangsar College.

3 T.M.M. transcript. The Penang Free School was “free” only in the sense that students were admitted without discrimination on the grounds of race or religion, subject to their ability to pay the fees and meet certain academic standards.

4 Ibid. The present writer has been unable to find evidence to support or refute this claim.

5 Penasihat British, Kelantan, Fail 1217/1930, Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur. See also T.M.M. transcript. Prior to 1939, and again from 1945 to 1948, Thailand was known to the West as Siam. For the sake of consistency, I have used “Thailand” throughout, except in the case of direct quotations.

6 T.M.M. transcript. Tengku Zianab was unlettered and unable to speak English.

7 Penasihat British, Kelantan, Fail 1217/1930.

8 tengku Mahmood Mahyiddeen to the Hon'ble The British Adviser, Kelantan, 8 August 1931, Penasihat British, Fail 857/1931, Arkib Negara.

9 T.P. Coe, M.C.S., Acting British Adviser to the Government of Kelantan, to Tengku Mahmood Mahyiddeen, 16 August 1931, Fail 857/1931, Kelantan.

10 T.M.M. transcript. But see also A.C. Baker to the General Adviser, Johore, 18 June 1933, Fail, K. 490/1933.

11 Haemindra, Nantawan, “The Problem of the Thai-Muslims in the Four Southern Provinces of Thailand (Part One)”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 7, no. 2 (September, 1976): 205, n. 41.

12 Kessler, Clive S., Islam and Politics in a Malay State: Kelantan 1838–1969 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1978), p. 104, n. 3.

13 Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen to Tiian Setia Usaha Kerajaan Kelantan, 15 June 1933; A.C. Baker to D.P.M., 18 June 1933, in Penasihat British, Fail 490/1933.

14 Baker to Cheeseman, 18 June 1933, Fail K.490/33. The “Tanjong Malim boys” to whom Baker refers were graduates of the Sultan Idris Training College, founded in 1922 to produce teachers for Malay elementary schools.

15 Cheeseman to Baker, 27 July 1933, Fail K.490/33.

16 Great Britain. Colonial Reports. Annual Report on the Social and Economic Progress of the State of Kelantan (Unféderated Malay States). Report for 1938 (London: HMSO, 1939), p. 52.

17 T.M.M. transcript. Baker was the British Adviser.

18 Annual Report... of Kelantan...for 1936 (London: HMSO, 1937), pp. 4142. Emphasis added.

19 T.M.M. transcript.

20 This conclusion is arrived at on the basis of statements made by Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen to Barbara Whittingham-Jones (in the Jones Papers), and on internal evidence contained in numerous reports appearing in the fortnightly, cyclostyled Malayan Security Service, Political Intelligence Journal (hereafter MSS.PIJ), copies of which are held at Rhodes House Library, Oxford.

21 Letter, Major T. Mahmood Mahyiddeen to Barbara Whittingham-Jones, 3 January 1946, Jones Papers.

22 T.M.M. transcript, Jones Papers. For a discussion of Phibul's cultural policies, see Numnonda, Thamsook, “Pibulsongkram's Thai Nation-Building Programme during the Japanese Military Presence, 1941–1945”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 9, no. 2 (September, 1978): 234–47.

23 This is implied in several places in Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen's letters to Barbara Whittingham-Jones. See Jones Papers.

24 Stockwell, A.J., British Policy and Malay Politics during the Malayan Union Experiment (Kuala Lumpur: Monographs of the Malaysian Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, No. 8, 1979), p. 36, n. 102 and p. 46, n. 35. Further reasons for giving up his princely title included the fact that it was a disincentive to trade (“When I was in the shop ordinary people dare not come in”), and the fact that, being inherited, the title ‘Tengku’ was in danger of becoming ubiquitous. See T.M.M. transcript.

25 T.M.M. transcript.

26 Stockwell, British Policy, p. 46. The abbreviation API means, literally, “fire”; and the initials were sometimes held to stand for Apuskan Perentah Inggeris (“Obliterate English Rule”). See MSS.PIJ, no. 4 of 1947 (March 31, 1947), p. 45. The concept of an independent nation embracing all Malays — Melayu Raya or Indonesia Raya — had been widely held amongst graduates of the Sultan Idris Training College and other founding members of the early radical Malay party, Kesatuan Melayu Muda (Young Malays' Union) in the 1930s. See Agastja, I.K., Sedjarah dan Perdjuangan di Malaya (Jogjakarta: Penerbit Nusantara, 1951), pp. 5153.

27 T. Mahmud Mahyiddin to Mrs. H.R. Oppenheim [Barbara Whittingham-Jones], 3 January 1946. He wrote: “The Malays like the Union but they [refuse] to give equal right to [alien] races domiciled here, they fear the Chinese to oust them not only in business but also in the Govt. of their own country. Further they [say] that after seeing the Chinese in power for three months they do not wish to have them in the Govt. of this country any more....” See Jones Papers.

28 T. Mahmud Mahyiddin to Barbara Whittingham-Jones, February 6, 1946, Jones Papers.

29 Memorandum, 6 February 1947, appended to Malayan Union Minute Paper MU. 3169/46. These files are held in the Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Malay dollar was valued at 2s 4d in 1939.

30 Ibid.

31 Malayan Union, Minute Paper MU. 3169/46.

32 Minute, CM. Anderson, 23 November 1946. FO 371/54441. This series of files is held at the Public Record Office, London.

33 T.M.M. transcript.

34 T. Mahmud Mahyiddeen to Mrs. H.R. Oppenheim, 3 January 1946, Jones Papers.

35 The original petition, in Malay, is held at the Public Record Office, London, reference FO 371/54421. A translation of the petition is to be found in the Jones Papers; but this — probably supplied by Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen — appears to have been made from memory, since it differs in several respects from the original, including the fact that it is addressed to “The Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies”. It is, of course, possible that the translation is of an earlier draft of the petition; in either event, there is strong circumstantial evidence that the Tengku was involved in its preparation.

36 Minute by A.C.S. Adams, February 19, 1946, FO 371/54421. Adams had served as a Vice-Consul in Thailand in 1933, at the age of 24; in 1937 he was 2nd Secretary at the Bangkok Legation, where he remained (apart from a brief spell as Acting Consul in Surabaya) until 1940. In 1945, he was in the Far Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, and in the following year he returned to Bangkok as Consul, later Acting Consul-General and Charge d'Affairs. He left Bangkok in 1948.

37 G.H. Hall [Secretary of State for the Colonies] to Sir Edward Gent, 13 June 1946. FO 371/54421.

38 Major T. Mahmud Mahyiddeen to Barbara Whittingham-Jones, January 3, 1946, Jones Papers. A Malay-language newspaper, with which Mahmud Mahyiddeen was later closely associated, reported that the Thai government had ordered the gradual Siamization of Pattani, Yala and Legor (Nakhon Si Thammarat), and that, in the face of this threat to their language, religion and customs, the Malay population of the three border provinces intended to appeal for their freedom to the Allied Powers and the United Nations Organization. See Utusan Melayu, January 24, 1946. It is probable that this report had its origin amongst the Kota Bharu exiles.

39 See, for example, the letter to the editor, signed by “Krisani”, appearing in the Straits Echo, January 3, 1946.

40 According to a United States Information Service handout dated February 26, 1946, a rumour was circulating in Bangkok that the British were “pouring rice into the isthmus area between Burma and Malaya as part of [a] plan for a plebiscite by which the inhabitants will vote to have their lands annexed as British possessions”. FO 371/54421.

41 Telegram, H.R. Bird [Bangkok] to Foreign Office, March 13, 1946. FO 371/54421.

42 Straits Times, March 30, 1946.

43 Cypher Telegram, Sir E. Gent to British Minister, Bangkok, November 19, 1946, FO 371/54421.

44 Ibid.

45 Minute, by CM. Anderson, November 23, 1946, FO 371/54441.

46 Mahmood Mahyiddeen to Barbara Whittingham-Jones, 5 December 1945, Jones Papers.

47 Minute, by O.H. Morris, 29 Apr. 1948, CO 537/3682/52286, Secret Supplementary Correspondence, PRO, London.

48 The four Pattani Malay leaders were: Haji Abdul Wahab bin Abdullah, Ali bin Abdul Wahab (Haree Vongsohan), Wan Yusoff bin Wan Abdullah, and Seman bin Abdul Munim (Toyyeeke Changwat). Both Haji Abdul Wahab and Seman were Members of the Thai House of Representatives at the time. MSS. Supplement to PIJ, no. 16 of 1947 (30 September 1947).

49 MSS. PIJ, no. 5 of 1948 (March 15, 1948), p. 131.

50 MSS. PIJ, no. 6 of 1948 (March 31, 1948), pp. 185–86; MSS. PIJ, no. 8 of 1948 (April 30, 1948), p. 247.

51 Report by Guy Madoc April 8, 1948, CO 537/3682/52286/1 (hereafter “Madoc Report”). Madoc, at that time First Secretary in charge of the Malaya Section, British Embassy, Bangkok, had attended a conference of Thai and Malayan police and border officials at Penang, after which he visited Kedah (20–22 March), Pattani (23–30 March) and Kelantan (31 March-1 April 1948). The two religious teachers were: Haji Che Nik and Haji Che Ibrahim.

52 MSS. Supplement to PIJ, no. 16 of 1947 (September 30, 1947).

53 R. Whittington [Counsellor and Consul-General, British Embassy, Bangkok], “Proceedings of the Civil (Political) Sub-Committee, Siamese-Malayan Conference at Songkhla, January 6th and 7th, 1949” (typescript), dated January 11, 1949, FO 371/76289.

54 MSS. Supplement to PIJ, no. 16 of 1947 (September 30, 1947).

55 G.H. Thompson to Foreign Office, March 8, 1948, CO 537/3682/52286/1.

56 W.F.N. Churchill [British Adviser, Kelantan], “Report on Songkhla Conference held on 6th and 7th January, 1949” (typescript, undated), FO 371/76289. Churchill was a cousin of his more illustrious namesake.

57 MSS. Supplement to PIJ, no. 16 of 1947 (September 30, 1947).

58 MSS. PIJ, no. 4 of 1948 (February 28, 1948).

59 MSS. Supplement to PIJ, no. 16 of 1947 (September 30, 1947).

60 Ibid.

61 Ibid. This account of Haji Sulong's “demands” differs in significant respects from a later version published by Tengku Mahyiddeen in “Some Facts About Malays in South Siam” (Cyclostyled; The Information Bureau, Gabongan Melayu Pattani Paya [The Association of Greater Pattani Malays], 16 Mar. 1948). The latter, which reduced the number of demands to seven, speaks of the appointment of “a single individual with full powers to govern” the four provinces, this individual to be local-born, and elected by the people.

62 MSS. Supplement to PIJ, no. 16 of 1947 (September 30, 1947).

63 Ibid.

64 MSS. PIJ, no. 18 of 1947 (October 31, 1947), p. 447. It has been asserted that fear of a link between Malays of the Peninsula and the Indonesian Republic became “something of an obsession” for the British. Short, Anthony, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948–1960 (London, 1975), p. 80.

65 Mahmud Mahyiddeen to Barbara Whittingham-Jones, 13 December 1947, Jones Papers.

66 Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, 31 January 1948, Jones Papers.

67 Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, 13 December 1947, Jones Papers. The reference in the final paragraph cited is to the November 8/9 Army-led coup which marked the first stage of Phibul Songkhram's return to political power.

68 Whittingham-Jones to Mahyiddeen, January 2, 1948, Jones Papers.

69 Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, January 21, 1948, Jones Papers.

70 Ibid. A British Intelligence source subsequently reported that the petition had received some 15,000 signatures. MSS. PIJ, no. 2 of 1948 (January 31, 1948), pp. 61–62.

71 Telegram, Thompson (Bangkok) to Foreign Office, January 31, 1948, CO 537/3682/52286/1.

72 MSS. PIJ, no. 4 of 1948 (February 28, 1948), pp. 106/7.

73 According to a British source, the cables were sent on Mahmud Mahyiddeen's instructions. MSS. PIJ, no. 2 of 1948 (January 31, 1948). See also Note by Barbara Whittingham-Jones, and Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, August 15, 1948, Jones Papers.

74 Undated letter, Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, Jones Papers. According to the Malayan Security Service, it was Tengku Jalal's intention to canvas all the Malay Sultans for support, but his reception by the Mentri Besar of Kedah, Tuan Haji Mohamed Shariff, convinced him of the futility of his effort. MSS. PIJ, no. 2 of 1948 (January 31, 1948), pp. 61–62; Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, April 26, 1948, Jones Papers.

75 Secret telegram, Special Commissioner in South-East Asia, Singapore, to Foreign Office, 29.1.48, CO 537/3682/52286/1; Stockwell, British Policy, p. 143.

76 See, for example, Daily Telegraph, February 16, 1948; Evening Standard, February 10, 1948; The Straits Budget, February 19, 1948; The Times, February 20, 1948.

77 Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, January 21, 1948, Jones Papers.

78 Savingram, High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya to Secretary of State for the Colonies, March 5, 1948, CO 537/3682/52286/1.

79 Ibid. Tengku Mahyiddeen issued a statement, widely circulated in the Southern Provinces, in which he called upon Pattani Malays to “refrain from taking any action likely to cause disorder and a breach of the peace”. MSS. PIJ, no. 9 of 1948 (May 15, 1948), p. 291.

80 A Malayan Security Service report speaks of Tengku Mahyiddeen being “urged by his followers in Pattani to take more positive action”, and elsewhere that “The Malays in Pattani are disappointed with Tengku Mahyuddin's lack of action”. MSS. PIJ, no. 2 of 1948 (January 31, 1948), pp. 36 and 61–62.

81 MSS. PIJ, no. 5 of 1948 (March 15, 1948), p. 141.

82 Ibid.; Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, March 6, 1948, Jones Papers. It appears that Mahyiddeen perceived a further useful function for GAMPAR. He wrote: “The local [MNP] initiated this association. They approached me for... permission to [form] it and I cannot stop it. It will do them a lot of good as they will be kept very occupied with the affairs on the other side of the border and will have less time o t poke their noses in the local politics They may be able to do some good towards the Pattani cause and will do no harm to it.”

83 MSS. PIJ, no. 5 of 1948 (March 5, 1948), p. 142.

84 Ibid., p. 131. Utusan Melayu, March 17, 1948.

85 MSS. PIJ, no. 5 of 1948 (March 15, 1948), pp. 131, 147–48.

86 MSS. PIJ, no. 7 of 1948 (April 15, 1948), pp. 217 and 223.

87 Singapore Free Press, March 10, 1948; Malaya Tribune, March 11, 1948; Straits Times, March 12, 1948.

88 Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, March 15, 1948, Jones Papers.

89 MSS. PIJ, no. 8 of 1948 (April 30, 1948), p. 256. Emphasis added.

90 Straits Times, 8 September 1948; Mahmud Mahyiddeen to Whittingham-Jones, 4 October 1948, Jones Papers.

* The research upon which this paper has been based was made possible by a generous grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of staff at both the Arkib Negara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the Public Record Office, London, England. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Combined Conference of the Canadian Council of Southeast Asian Studies and the Nbrthwest Regional Consortium for Southeast Asian Studies, held at the University of British Columbia, November 3–5, 1989.

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Tengku Mahmud Mahyiddeen and the Dilemma of Partisan Duality*

  • Hugh Wilson (a1)


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