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Chin Peng and the Struggle for Malaya*

  • A. J. Stockwell

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“Fifty years ago, the name of Chin Peng was feared almost as much as Osama bin Laden is today”. So wrote the Hong Kong-based journalist, Philip Bowring, in 2003. Fifty years ago the British empire, in the view of Field Marshal Montgomery, was locked in a struggle “between the East and West, between Communism and Democracy, between evil and Christianity”. It was a time when Chin Peng was Britain's enemy number one in Southeast Asia. A measure of his importance is the size of the reward offered in May 1952 for his capture: M$250,000 was equivalent to first prize in the Social Welfare Lottery and a huge sum compared with the wage rates of Malayan workers. Chin Peng is Malaya's Ho Chi Minh, but a Ho Chih Minh manqué. Like Ho Chi Minh, Chin Peng was a communist who, having played a key part in local resistance to the Japanese occupation, led the struggle against the post-war restoration of European colonialism. Yet, whereas Ho Chi Minh established the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Chin Peng was thwarted in his attempt to create a socialist state in Malaya. Consequently, while the one became a national hero, the other has been cast out from the land of his birth and until recently has been without a voice in its history. The publication of his memoirs in 2003, however, enables us to reappraise Chin Peng's part in the achievement of Malayan independence.

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This article is a version of a lecture delivered at the Royal Asiatic Society on 16 December 2005. In revising it for publication I have greatly benefited from the discussion that followed the lecture and also from subsequent communications with Dr Russell Jones.

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* This article is a version of a lecture delivered at the Royal Asiatic Society on 16 December 2005. In revising it for publication I have greatly benefited from the discussion that followed the lecture and also from subsequent communications with Dr Russell Jones.

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Chin Peng and the Struggle for Malaya*

  • A. J. Stockwell

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