Sunday, September 22, 2013

Death comes for the revolutionary

Chin Peng, the former secretary general of the Communist Party of Malaya, died this week in Thailand on September 16 (read New York Times report here), which was coincidentally Malaysia Day. (That he died on that date is being disputed by some.) Chin Peng was Malaya's independence hero who fought the Japanese and then the British. He was the last of his kind that once included Ho Chi Minh, Norodom Sihanouk, Aung San and Sukarno. Chin Peng penned a final letter to his comrades which you can read here.

When an independence hero dies, one expects honors. But the Malaysian government decided to disallow the interment of Chin Peng's ashes in Malaysia. You see, Chin Peng was indeed a hero for fighting the Japanese and campaigning for independence from the British, but he committed the historical mistake of continuing the struggle (many times violent) against the newly independent Malaya. So there was therefore the debate whether he was an independence hero or a terrorist.

This was of  interest to me because I am currently reading Tan Twan Eng's Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Garden of Evening Mists, and that historical novel was set in the Cameron Highlands, where Chin Peng set up his base. The communist attacks in the area provide the atmospherics of the novel. One major incident in the novel was the ambush and murder of the British High Commissioner carried out by Chin Peng's communist guerrillas hiding out in the hills of the Cameron Highlands. It is  a very good novel. Look it up and read it. It will make you want to go to Malaysia and visit the Cameron Highlands. As I will soon.

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