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Was Chin Peng played out?

Chin Peng arriving at a hotel in Haadyai for a press conference

MORE puzzling than the Malaysian government‘s current myopic reaction against the idea of Chin Peng‘s return is the sketchy outline of events soon after the Haadyai Peace Accords. The peace treaty was signed on 2 Dec 1989 to end hostilities between Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

If Chin Peng’s version of events is to be believed, it would appear that he was played out, and quite soon after the ink had dried on the peace agreement.

The government’s defiance of the signed agreement today is unsurprising given the political climate. But did Malaysian officials, in the early years after the peace accords were signed, intentionally cause delays in order to frustrate Chin Peng’s attempts to return?

Chin Peng now believes he was “tricked” and “played” by the Malaysian government, as he tells Malaysian journalists from the Chinese-language media and The Nut Graph at a press session in Haadyai on 27 Nov 2009. The press conference was called in conjunction with the 20th anniversary commemoration of the peace accord. Chin Peng now lives in Bangkok.

Making peace

When asked why he thought the government signed the peace accords at all if it had no intention of letting him return, Chin Peng, who is no stranger to betrayal, offers a pragmatic view.

“The scenario then forced the government to sign the agreement with us. If they had been unwilling, they would have felt alienated by the people. We were also faced with the same situation,” the former CPM secretary-general, whose real name is Ong Boon Hua, tells reporters.

A young Chin Peng (Courtesy of Farish Noor)
The decades in between the first failed peace attempt in Baling, 1955, and the Haadyai accords in 1989 was a time of flux for world communism. These global events affected CPM’s own direction, Chin Peng recalls in his memoirs Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, published in 2003.

In the later 1980s before Haadyai, Thailand also initiated peace negotiations with the CPM, which was hiding in its southern jungles. Chin Peng recalls that the Thai overtures were coordinated with similar advances for peace from Malaysia. He mentions then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad authorising Malaysian Special Branch contact with CPM representatives for exploratory talks.

Eventually, there were five rounds of private negotiations between CPM and Malaysia, with the Thais as mediators. Chin Peng notes that significantly, during the negotiations, CPM’s role was recognised in the independence struggle leading to Merdeka.

Stalling return?

After the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng says he applied in late 1990 to return to Malaysia, but the application was rejected in December 1991.

Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai has a different version. He recently told The Star that during the resettlement process in the three years after the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng never stated his intention to return to Malaysia.

Yet, the Home Ministry has also accused Chin Peng of failing to attend a resettlement interview that was fixed for 31 Oct 1992.

Chin Peng now says he “suspects”, although he does not dare to accuse the Malaysian government outright, of intentionally reneging on the agreement. “I don’t dare to assume that it was intentional … [Whether] it happened in 1992 or much earlier, I can’t remember exactly. I think I was being tricked to go for an interview. They asked me to go to this place, and then the government side didn’t turn up. Then they asked me to go to another place … from one place to another. As far as I can remember, I was being played by them,” he tells reporters in Haadyai.

At 85 and of poor health, Chin Peng admits to having a patchy memory. He cannot recall dates of the supposed interview with Special Branch. He speaks slowly with long pauses, as if trying to jog his memory.

But he says he kept to the deadline to inform the Malaysian authorities of his intention to return. Under Article 5 of the administrative agreement of the peace accords, CPM members seeking resettlement in Malaysia had one year from the date of the signing of the agreement to notify the Malaysian authorities.

Chin Peng personally wrote to then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 14 June 2004 to state that he had met the notification deadline. “It is a matter of record that in 1990 I applied under the guarantees of the Peace Accords to resettle in Malaysia. I had sought direction from the Haadyai-based Special Branch officer handling resettlement matters, and was specifically advised to wait in Haadyai for a call to be interviewed. This call never materialised. Subsequently, I received a letter stating my application had been rejected on grounds that I had failed to present myself to an interview.”

The letter to Abdullah never received a response. It is among the correspondence by Chin Peng, his lawyers and the government tendered in court during the hearing for his 2005 application to be permitted to enter and live in Malaysia.

Government fudging

His memoirs
Chin Peng was to be stood up a second time. In his memoirs, he tells of an offer by a Special Branch officer in Yala in 1999 to “apply for a sightseeing tour”. Chin Peng agreed to the offer and expressed wishes to pay homage at the graves of his grandfather, parents and siblings at a Chinese cemetery located near Sitiawan, where he was born in 1924.

He continues in his book: “For some reason or other, things have not worked out yet. It has been a frustrating wait.”

Chin Peng and his lawyers followed up on the offer with a series of letters, even disclosing travel arrangements, in 2003 and 2004. Two letters were by Chin Peng directly to Abdullah in his capacity both as premier and as then home affairs minister. Other letters were by his lawyers to former Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar and then Home Affairs Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, who is today the Election Commission chairperson.

On 25 Oct 2004, Abdul Aziz wrote to Chin Peng’s lawyers a letter, without explanation, that their client’s request to enter Malaysia was rejected. Chin Peng then began turning to the courts. He lost his final bid in the Federal Court on 30 April 2009.

In the light of these letters, the remarks by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop in June 2009 should be evaluated for accuracy. Abu Seman claims that Chin Peng never resubmitted an application after failing to attend the 31 Oct 1992 interview, and thus violated conditions of the peace deal.

The paper trail of letters culminating in the rejection letter of 25 Oct 2004 suggests otherwise.

Another remark that warrants scrutiny is Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad‘s statement that it was the CPM, and not Chin Peng himself, which had disarmed, according to conditions under the peace accords.

Explaining in Parliament why Chin Peng was still listed as an enemy of the country, Abdul Latiff was quoted by Bernama: “This is because during the signing of the peace accord with the CPM in 1989, he did not sign the agreement to lay down arms. Only the CPM agreed to do so and not Chin Peng.”

Considering that Chin Peng’s signature and party position as secretary-general are recorded at the end of the peace accords documents, one wonders what Abdul Latiff means.

A copy of the 1989 administrative agreement to end hostilities signed by Chin Peng on behalf of CPM,
together with then Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s signature

No regrets

Terrorist to some and freedom fighter to others, Chin Peng seems to care little of how history will remember him. He remains convicted of the CPM’s struggle, which, from his perspective, was to free Malaya from colonialists, whether Japanese or British. It wasn’t an “emergency”, it was a war, he declares in his book. As for the armed struggle after independence in 1957, CPM considered that to be a “false” independence by the British.

“It would be arrogant of me to say how I hope history will judge me. It should be left to the people of Malaysia to decide on what I have done with my life,” he tells reporters in Haadyai.

“In politics, we all have our own stand. Those who hate me will certainly not want me to return. But whether they like me or not, I think there is no reason for them to oppose my wanting to pay respects to my ancestors in Sitiawan.”

He says he would choose the same path of armed struggles against the colonialists if time were turned back. But he adds: “If we had thought that there would be another way at the time, we would have chosen it.”

He remains steadfast in the belief that communist principles can form an egalitarian society with the freedom of self-determination. “I have never wavered in my communist belief. Any movement that can bring change to the world will have to face obstacles. This is nothing strange,” Chin Peng tells the press.

Hu Jintao (; source: Wiki commons)
On the visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Malaysia, he says, “It is a good thing for China and Malaysia to establish friendly relations.”

Determined to return

Chin Peng says he has no regrets except for one: that he was “fooled” into thinking he could resettle in Malaysia. He returns to the topic of going back to Sitiawan repeatedly throughout the press conference, chuckling resignedly at times and even managing to smile.

“I have reluctantly accepted [that I will not be allowed into Malaysia]. It is my fate. But I will still push the government to accept me. I am getting older and older and I want to set foot on my hometown. And if they want to arrest me, let them arrest me, banish me.

“I will try to go back to the land of my birth. I will try every way. Smuggle in also can. I don’t know if I will succeed, but I want to try.”

Perhaps, just as strong as Chin Peng’s desire to return home, is his desire to know that he has dealt with honest men. Mahathir, under whose administration the peace deal was signed, now sides with the political status quo not to let Chin Peng return. Former IGP Tun Haniff Omar now considers Chin Peng to have no legal standing in his 2005 suit against the government for defamation, citing the CPM’s illegal status. Yet, it was Haniff who signed on behalf of Malaysia in the 1989 agreement to end hostilities.

In his 14 June 2004 letter to Prime Minister Abdullah, Chin Peng wrote: “I also wish to be reassured, before it is too late, that my signing of the Peace Accords on [2 Dec1989] was not a futile exercise. I still wish to believe that solemn undertakings expressed by Malaysia in international agreements are readily recognised as pledges of honour to be respected and that the injustice done to my 1990 application was a misdeed limited in its culpability.”

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19 Responses to “Was Chin Peng played out?”

  1. Nicholas Aw says:

    I am no communist sympathiser nor am I [a communist]. But for the government to renege from a signed peace accord is morally wrong. To add salt to injury, a number of government politicians and officials have stuck to the status quo.

    The least the government should do is to allow Chin Peng to return to Sitiawan to pay his last respects to his ancestors and perhaps to meet up with his relatives and friends (if any) before he goes to meet his Saviour.

    Depriving the wishes of a sickly and perhaps dying man is beyond comprehension. Why practise religion if we cannot forgive the past and those who have hurt us? This is hypocrisy of the highest order. Even God is compassionate and merciful.

  2. dato seri yuen yuet leng says:

    Having returned some few days ago and caught up with a revived controversy on Chin Peng I opine that not all comments are completely right nor are they completely wrong because they are all somewhat subjective and in many cases emotional with understandable, valid reasons. They range from personal, ideological, institutional, political, racial and even racist, professional and national security motivations. I prefer to see it from additionally long-term national unity and national survival and broader political reasons at home and abroad.

    I had fought communist terrorism the whole of my adult life and still carry a terrorist slug in my chest. I had survived many assassination attempts as Chin Peng said I had spent most of my life looking for communists and the other part avoiding assassination. I should hate the communists but I don’t, but I did hate violence and terrorism expecially the type that was spawned by Mao Tse Tung who believed in absolute brutal and bloody terrorism which may have been good for China and on which the CPM armed struggle was patterned in an absolutely wrong and different racial, social, economic, geographical and importantly religious environment in what was not China but British Malaya, more truthfully Tanah Melayu.

    In fact, our nation state and independence, many do not realise at all, was the outcome of the Cold War between Western superpowers and international proletariat communism. We rightly chose Western civilization democracy and constitutional struggle. Chin Peng chose armed Mao-type struggle and ended up on the wrong side of our national history.

    Today we are much more politically mature. Unbridled democracy can also be bad especially with abuse and mismanagement of political power – corruption leading to despotism, cronyism and nepotism. Mao’s indiscriminate proletariat totalitarian communism would have collapsed the success of their revolution if Chou En Lai, the self-effacing and at least equally great hero throughout the long years, had not checked Mao and silently groomed Deng Tsiao Ping to eventually take over and initiating the restructuring of China still in the name of the Party into what is a hybrid between guided communism and capitalism founded on intellect, merit and modernism rather than the chains of negative historical antecedence.

    I salute and agree absolutely with Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s very professional views as expressed by him in his interview with S.Pathmawathy on 30 No 2009. The government even if legally right in terms of so broad legality according to laws of the country, is morally wrong in the spirit, sincerity and goodwill displayed at the time in 1989 when even a terminally sick very hardcore senior central committee member was brought to KL for treatment. Chin Peng should at least be allowed to visit for Perak for a start. He, I am sure, appreciates he is not just a former CPM member […] but is still the present secretary-general of the CPM. Though stated dormant, it has not declared that it categorically no longer espouses the option of armed struggle. If the Special Branch feels this is a factor, [then] Chin Peng should decide what he should do to [slay] any [lingering] security ghosts.

    However, according to the Accord he should be allowed to return in whatever the manner. Surely we have enough confidence to monitor him, if necessary. If he ever wishes to really contribute to the intrinsic national interests within the law and the tenets and spirit of our constitution I am even at so advanced an age prepared to work together with him within the limits of my health and mental faculties. After all, I had worked so long with a number of his state committee and central committee members who had secretly joined and assisted us over the years and were also the reason why the Special Branch had been able to play such a great but never or seldom revealed part in winning the war.

    The greatest tribute that Chin Peng made was when we met during the signing of the Peace Accord which I witnessed in 1989, when he said, “Whatever I may say otherwise about the police, I have to say one thing. I admire your Special Branch.” “Why?” I asked. He replied, “Your penetration!”

    • Patriot says:

      Yuen, Chin Peng was a patriot who fought along side with the progressive forces which drove out the Japanese and British colonialists while you fought for the corrupt and racist alliance and British government. True to the end, true to today, the side that you served is still corrupt and racist. For that, you made millions of blood money from the dirty government.


  3. EXV69 says:

    As long as Ong Boon Hua @ Chin Peng refuses to bury away his communist ideology – he will never EVER be allowed to return. He led the murder of civilians of all races on Malayan soil, that is why he isn’t even allowed to be buried here!

    It’s not about race – it’s about the very deep scar of losing loved ones and fighting a very cruel enemy.

    I still walk with a limp, no thanks to the hundreds of booby traps laid down by CPM in Kuala Mangga, Temenggor. I lost quite a few men but they all had the same colour of blood, if you know what I mean.

    Ong Boon Hua – please stay out of the country that we fought for.

  4. Jan Bahari says:

    Let him come back and make peace. The old man has already apologised for his and the actions of his compatriots. Don’t get me wrong, I am not disrespecting those who have suffered, fought and sacrificed during the emergency years but I believe forgiveness will provide closure to this black chapter of our country’s history.

    I’m sad that there are some who are insinuating that Chin Peng will be treated differently if he [were] Malay. I’m afraid not, Rashid Maidin was not allowed to come back and passed away in 2006 in Thailand. Abdullah CD, and [many] more Malays who fought with Chin Peng, is still in Thailand with no hope of coming back.

    I’m praying that we can be the better person by being forgiving and compasionate. In doing so, we can close this chapter and move forward.

    • Peace says:

      Agree with you Jan Bahari. This chapter should have been closed. But unfortunately many prefer to let hatred rules. It is too late now, the hatred will continue to fill the minds and souls of our future generations which is going to hurt the nation.

  5. dato seri yuen yuet leng says:

    Dear Exv69,

    I can understand your emotions as I was as angry at the time as you are, especially when I was physically with our boys. As an earlier jungle fighter I held our leading scout who was shot in the head in my arms and died waiting for the helicopter to arrive. I was shot twice and lost very close friends and colleagues. All this was for independence and nation, and was certainly not about race, and should never ever be and had never ever been [about race] with me and my boys.

    Most will never forget and many will still not forgive. Many may at best accept, in the context of the developing realities of evolving internal and international political and economic power forces. We may not all be aware that within our nation, there are Malay, Chinese and Indian [Malaysian] families who were caught along with dear ones because of ideology and other factors; who were maimed, suffered great mental agony, or died on opposing sides.

    A terrorist leader we had persuaded to surrender helped us to get his wife to come out of the jungle. With information from him, the army eliminated a few CTs. One was his own younger brother, who, unknown to him, had been transferred to the unit that was attacked. A few days later, he committed suicide.

    These are the very human agonies of war. That is why we have to find ways to reconcile sooner rather than later, not carry negative baggage, prejudice and sensitivities from generation to generation, confusing the future when all communities have to work and unite together without racism to survive in the world of globalisation.

    Chin Peng definitely has to do his part as well. But the accord is an accord, which I feel as a self-respecting police officer and soldier should be honoured to the letter, word and spirit. I trust some politicians will learn to be less primitive and be elated that the Malaysian sang kancil has outwitted the grizzly communist bear! But in the meantime, what will the world outside think of us and our political and national reliability?

  6. laimun says:

    I can understand the sentiments of those who support Chin Peng’s last wishes. Today, we see him as a frail old man, just like anybody’s grandfather. That would be true, too, for people like Hitler, Pol Pot, the Serbian warlords and many many more — cruel killers of men and women. And now, in their final stages of life, they expect us to forget and forgive. What if your father, mother or anyone in your family was a victim of their atrocities?? Think again.

  7. jery says:

    Shame on those who are not able keep a deal. Black is black and white is white; and no court of appeal can take it away. Do we believe in judicial impartiality?

  8. SABM-S'wan says:

    I salute you, Dato Seri Yuen Yuet Leng for being truthful and forthright in your writings. Not many people can fight an enemy, get wounded, survive, and then still be prepared to work with him [or her] for the nation’s good in their twilight years.

    Many of us who are much younger know not the danger nor the gravity of communism and its brutality. And here we have you as one of our unsung heroes. Where are all the good men [and women] of yesteryears, Datuk?

    The ones that make Malaysia and its people proud without all the silly politicians echoing their nonsense. Those that are willing to die in defense of others and are not colour blind. I think our current problems are all the doing of some silly politicians who turn this mighty nation (top four in early 1990s for FDI) into its present mess.

    We need to hear and read more of your postings as well as those of your comrades to teach the young ones that Independence of Malaysia comes from sacrifices of all races.

    On Ong Boon Hua per se, maybe you and others who are connected can persuade those in power to honour the signed contract. Arrangements can be such that he is guarded (need to as he is too old already) at all times for his visit by a certain given timeframe. Thereafter, a good farewell together with your former comrades for him to go back to Haadyai. In whatever we do, we must know that our lives on earth are numbered and anything above 75 years is a blessing on a day-to-day basis. Thanks once again, Datuk Seri Yuen. May you be blessed in whatever you do in your remaining years on earth.

  9. mycuntree says:

    Only those who are in denial will not agree with the header – that Chin Peng has been played out by the Malaysian government.

    Until very lately, the government has been trying to mislead the general public by focusing on the atrocities committed by the CPM during the war, and the emotional feelings of some sections of the affected to raise public objection for the return of Chin Peng to his homeland. What was not mentioned was that the peace accord with the CPM specifically agreed to allow any Malayan CPM members to return if they so wish.

    Even after the ex-IGP Rahim Noor came out in support of Chin Peng’s return, according to the peace accord (of which he was a signatory) the government is still inventing excuses to deny Chin Peng’s wish. If that is not being played out, betrayed, cheated, conned, then what else is?

    All other reasons used to renege on the accord are irrelevant. Trying to play up the emotions and sentiments of individuals adversely affected by the conflict with the CPM during the war is being silly and childish.

    Personally I do not support the communist ideology, nor do I ever wish to live under the thumb of any communist state. But here our government has brought dishonour to all right-thinking Malaysians, me included, by not honouring or even respecting what it put its name on.

  10. MyMalaya says:

    Just [leave] it like it is now. If he is back, we can’t guarantee his safety. Remember there are many people, mostly of families who fought him with blood to spill. If he so wishes to be buried in Malaysia, then just do it then. No need to come back.

  11. Chin Peng, Suriani Abdullah aka Eng Ming Ching, Abdullah CD (Chair[person] of CPM), Rashid Maidin were all born in the various places in Perak and all of them are central committee members of CPM. Suriani Abdullah is the wife of Abdullah CD.Three of them are the signatories in the Hatyai Peace Accord. Since then Suriani has visited Malaysia twice and was granted together with her husband an audience with Sultan Raja Azlan Shah of Perak. Why then Chin Peng is not even allowed a visit back in his home town, not to mention not being allowed back to stay?

    It is precisely Malaysians […] like Abdul Latiff who have made the country such a laughing stock of the world. Not only is the sanctity of contractual agreements not honoured,
    his reason for reneging it smacks of intellectual dishonesty.

  12. An agreement is an agreement is an agreement, and if you are not going to honour it why go into the agreement with that person in the first place!

  13. jj says:

    Chin Peng, just convert to Islam. Sure can return to Malaysia fast and easily…

  14. Charles F. Moreira says:

    The government should honour its side of the agreement and allow Chin Peng to return.

    British propaganda has demonised the CPM as “terrorists” when they in fact were patriotic fighters who led the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army against the Japanese occupiers during World War II and later the British colonisers.

    If not for the CPM-led armed insurrection against the British colonialists, would have it been so easy for Tunku Abdul Rahman and the other Umno, MCA and MIC leaders to have won Malaya’s independence by mere negotiation alone.

    Had the CPM not have existed, there would have been some other patriotic party or organisation which would have had to lead a militant fight for independence, much as the Americans had to do to win independence from the British.

    The British had two choices — Refuse to grant independence and lose everything to a CPM-led government or give political independence to those who would preserve and protect British economic interests in the country, and they chose the latter course.

    Despite that, the CPM knew that there would be no popular support for their continuance of the armed insurrection and negotiated for peace and the right to exist as a legal party but that was denied them.

    So the conflict continued on and off until the peace accord of 1989.

  15. Gopal Raj Kumar says:

    There is more than just a tinge of hypocracy here in the outpouring of near grief at the denial of Chin Peng’s ‘right’ to enter Malaysia today.

    If he is allowed to return it would be a privilege and not a right. Of his own admission Chin Peng has not yet given up his belief in what he calls communism. And the communism he speaks of is not of the Che Guevera variety but that of the Mao absolutism which was a reign of bloody terror unleashed in unprecedented form over a fifth of humanity. It included murder and torture in ways so brutal and a complete denial of human rights on a mass scale never seen before.

    An example of how Mao’s foreign acolytes and disciples like Chin Peng acted in other countries and could well be expected of Chin Peng if he is allowed to ressurect his machine in Malaysia is the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia under Pol Pot. Another Chinese foreign venture with their surrogates in full swing in the name of communism.

    Communism in China was never communism. It was Maoism calling itself communism for convenience and what respectability that could bring.

    The danger that in Chin Peng is the fact he has not given up communism or the China angle nor has he revealed a lot more of what he knows than that little he was obliged to under the agreement. He keeps many more secrets that he has freely revealed. It includes those within Royalty, in Britain’s own secret service, Australians, and more importantly many of Malaysia’s own non-Malay cabinet who were supporters or who betrayed the country when it suited them. […]

    It is even more pathetic an indictment of your blog that someone like the Hindraf leader Waythamoorthy is forced into exile by the Malaysian government for reasons less worthy of banishment with little or no support or publicity from your blog or the so-called human rights activists with their scurrilous articles you allow published here without fact. But the brute now posing as a betrayed benign old man is accorded volumes in his support.

    Lee Kuan Yew rightly referred to these as Chinese chauvinists in his books and his many speeches. There is an element of Chinese chauvinism involved here. It has nothing to do with an old man in Thailand.

    He ought not to be allowed back on Malaysian soil. Never, not even in death to be made a martyr for the chauvinists looking for another attempt to revive their dominance of the peninsula at the expense of others.

  16. zamorin says:

    I wonder who hasn’t played out Chin Ping? The British did, the Malaysian government did, UMNO did, the peace negotiators did…. I’m glad he died a communist and made no apologies for that. I’m also glad the sun set on the British Empire in his lifetime. Our newer generation can’t even define communism let alone understand Chin Ping. – RIP to Malaysia’s greatest freedom fighter. Hasta la victoria siempre.

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