The generals who lived after the war were so ashamed by
their defeat and their atrocities that they died in silence, without offering
the world their stories.
But Chin Peng – the head of the Communist Party of Malaya – who now lives in
Thailand has written a book on the 12-year war against the British and
Commonwealth forces in the jungles of Malaya.
The memoir, entitled Chin Peng: My Side of The Story, is now on sale at local
bookshops. The book was first made available two weeks ago but for some reason,
copies were seized by the police.
On Saturday, the Home Ministry said it had not banned the book.
The 527-page book on British journalist Ian Ward is based on Chin Peng's own
narration of his involvement in the CPM, which remains outlawed in Malaysia.
I managed to get a copy of the book before it was temporarily withheld, and
finished reading it within days on a recent trip to Japan.
The Home Ministry must be commended for allowing the sale of the book as Chin
Peng has answered, in many ways, the questions of historians, students of
Malaysian history and probably the Special Branch.
He has revealed for the first time that the CPM was officially founded in 1930
– 10 years before Chin Peng joined the party as a 15-year-old schoolboy and
then later became its secretary-general.
The former guerilla himself is unable to provide details of events before his
time but has noted that the late Vietnamese leader Ho Chin Minh had attended
the inaugural meeting of the CPM.
There were gaps that Chin Peng filled, such as the assassination of Loi Teck,
the secretary-general of the CPM who was later exposed as a double agent for
the British and Japanese.
Loi Teck, a Vietnamese, had informed the Japanese of a meeting involving top
CPM leaders at Batu Caves
in 1942 and as a result of the betrayal, the CPM leadership was almost wiped
Chin Peng said that on a trip to Bangkok,
he spotted Loi Teck by chance and quickly informed members of the Thai
Communist Party who searched for the traitor from hotel to hotel.
Finally, two Thai communists strangled Loi Teck, who was then sickly, and
dumped the body in the river.
Previous versions had it that Loi Teck was shot or that he had disappeared
under mysterious circumstances because his body was never found.
As far I can recall, there has never been any book on the CPM that published
the picture of Loi Teck. In Chin Peng's book is a picture of Loi Teck who,
according to the writer, had four wives.
The book, as Chin Peng said, is not about the CPM's history but his involvement
in the party that appointed him secretary-general at 23 years old.
To research the book, Chin Peng visited the United
Kingdom and Australia
to look at declassified reports of the Emergency.
The book is also a personal chronology of his life, which students of history
cannot gather in academic books.
Chin Peng, the son of a bicycle shop owner, spoke of his childhood in Sitiawan
and of his participation in the Methodist
Influenced by the political developments in China
and his passion for Chinese literature, Chin Peng eventually looked to the
Middle Kingdom as his model of resistance against the Japanese and
He wrote of his love for a Penang woman who, despite her
education in a convent school, turned into a communist and later became his
Then there were the betrayals by comrades for money and, in some cases, to
avoid being sentenced to death.
For all its propaganda, criminal breach of trust involving party funds was
common, according to Chin Peng.
In his twilight years now, the 79-year-old spoke of his wishes to return to his
hometown and pay respect at the family graves.
He has portrayed himself as a nationalist whose only quarrels were with the
British and Japanese.
On the doomed peace talks in Baling in 1955, Chin Peng has good things to say
about Tunku Abdul Rahman, pointing the finger at Singapore
Chief Minister David Marshall for disrupting the talks.
Probably living in Bangkok, Betong
and Haadyai now, he spoke of his desire to "spend the last years of my life in Malaysia"
but that is unlikely to take place, given the pain still suffered by those who
fought the CPM in the jungles.
He regards himself as a socialist but "in the Malaysian context, I have
definitely dropped the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the
central concept for an administrative blueprint."
In short, Chin Peng has admitted, on record, that his ideology is no longer
In fact, he goes further to say "the youth who has known only stable
governments and lives in an independent age of affluence will find the choices
I made as a teenager deeply puzzling."
"They will think the Malaya I talk about in this book is
another world and they will not be far off the mark.
"It was a different world. The colours of that colonial world were stark.
"I was young in a very different age that demanded very different approaches. A
revolution based on violence has no application in modern Malaysia
This is a remarkable and thoughtful book and has certainly shed light on the
country's history, most of it seen from the eyes of British historians.