Former Malaysia communist guerrilla leader dies in Thailand
APBANGKOK--Malaysia's best-known former communist guerrilla, Chin Peng, who led a bloody insurgency against British rule in Malaysia in the late 1940s and early 50s, and lived in exile ever since, died in Bangkok Monday. He was 88.
September 17, 2013, 12:08 am TWN
Chin Peng, whose real name was Ong Boon Hua, died of cancer in a private hospital, according to his former lawyer in Malaysia, Darshan Singh Khaira, and officials in Thailand.
He was the last of a breed of Asian anti-colonialist figures that included Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh, Indonesia's Sukarno, Myanmar's Aung San and Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk, who died just last year. Chin Peng's dubious distinction was that unlike others he didn't win his war.
“I suppose I am the last of the region's old revolutionary leaders,” Chin Peng, which was his nom de guerre, wrote in his 2003 memoir 'My Side of History.' “It was my choice to lead from the shadows, away from the limelight.”
Chin Peng also lost a legal struggle in recent years to be allowed back into Malaysia.
Government leaders insisted his return would upset many Malaysians who lost their loved ones during the communist insurgency, which he had continued after the country became independent of Britain in 1957.
The mistrust for Chin Peng remained to this day.
“Well done to the Malaysian people and government,” Mohamad Ezam Nor, a senator in the ruling United Malays National Organization, wrote on Twitter.
He wrote that “because of our firmness the traitor Chin Peng has not achieved his desire to return to his homeland until the end of his lifetime.”
Born in October 1924 — the date is not known — Chin Peng first gained public attention during World War II, when he and other guerrillas provided the bulk of resistance to the Japanese occupation after Allied troops were swept from the Malayan peninsula and Singapore. He was a courageous, behind-enemy-lines fighter, learning guerrilla tactics from his British then-comrades-at-arms in the jungles.
He also became a committed Communist.
The ethnic Chinese were an underprivileged class in British-ruled Malaya, and for a number of young people among them, communism represented social justice and a shortcut to power and status.
“Most of the British colonials who came after the surrender of Japan were not just opportunists and corrupt; they were downright disdainful of the people they were exploiting,” Chin Peng wrote.
In 1948 the Communist party decided to wage armed struggle, the opening volleys of which were fired June 16 when guerrillas walked into two rubber plantations in northern Malaya and executed three British planters.
“I make no apologies for seeking to replace such an odious system with a form of Marxist socialism. Colonial exploitation, irrespective of who were the masters, Japanese or British, was morally wrong,” he wrote. “If you saw how the returning British functioned the way I did, you would know why I chose arms.”