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The Malayan Campaign 1948-60



The communists of the MNLA were jungle based and supported by the impoverished Chinese population. Although many Chinese lived in the cities, others - known as 'squatters' - lived at the fringes of the jungle and could aid the guerrillas. The MNLA and its supporters called the campaign the Anti-British National Liberation War.




The Malayan Campaign 1948-60



He also persuaded the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, to set up committees containing representatives of all civil and military agencies involved in the campaign so that a co-ordinated response to the guerrillas could be formulated. The Malayan Police and Special Branch were given the task of gathering information.


By the end of 1951 over 400,000 people had been resettled in 500 new villages. The guerrillas were frequently arrested or killed as they approached them in search of food. Many guerrillas surrendered, but these techniques took time to perfect and the insurgents were able to continue their campaign.


The campaign was one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western powers. Still studied today, it provides many important lessons on how such campaigns should be conducted.


McChrystal's diagnosis recalled aspects of the Malayan Emergency in 1950-52, when a force surge, increased unity of command, and intensified population-centric operations brought insurgency to a violent crescendo. This coerced Malaya's communists into scaling back their operations via their 'October 1951 Directive'. However, McChrystal's report - beyond talking of the need for greater force density in selected areas - did not fill in what a population-centric campaign might look like.


Drawing on a previous attempt to conceptualise 'lessons' from Malaya [2], this article asks what 'population-centric' operations meant, and how the underlying principles of success in Malaya might translate to Afghanistan. It offers the Malayan Emergency as a case-study, and as a way of raising campaign-defining questions and issues.


The resulting Emergency lasted from 1948-60, during which the population rose from 5 to 6 million, of whom about forty-six per cent were Malay and more than thirty-five per cent Chinese of immigrant origin. Most of the remainder were Indians. The communist Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) peaked at about 8,000 in 1951, supported by a Min Yuen (mass movement), and Armed Work Units. Peak support amongst the wider population was estimated at one million. The MNLA was ninety per cent Chinese.


Let us assume - as a heuristic device for re-imagining counterinsurgency policy - that the key underlying characteristics of Phase 2 of the Malayan campaign are also necessary to win in Afghanistan. The following therefore might be key.


Rachel's past research has focused on the social and intellectual history of colonial and postcolonial Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia. Her MPhil project drew on previously unused archival material to offer a new account of the abolition of the mui tsai system in interwar British Malaya, under which children, principally Chinese girls, were sold into bonded domestic servitude. Her PhD project was a study of the decolonization of British Malaya and the legacies of colonial rule for present-day Malaysia. It examined the role of colonized agents in negotiating and perpetuating standards of language, national belonging and ethnic identity under the conditions of extraordinary state governance occasioned by the Malayan Emergency (1948-60). She is presently writing a book from this thesis, provisionally entitled Taming Babel: Language and Power in the Making of Malaya. Her next research project seeks to explore global intellectual networks in interwar Asia. Using China's May Fourth movement as a case study, it seeks to understand how texts and ideas travel to different and unintended milieux, and to thus reposition a national intellectual movement in a more transnational history of ideas.


Over the next two decades, the 7th Gurkha Rifles spent much of its time deployed in the Far East. Both battalions saw action in the Malayan Emergency (1948-60) and the Indonesian Confrontation (1963-66). During that period, the regiment changed its name to the 7th Duke of Edinburgh's Own Gurkha Rifles in 1959.


Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, I did not often travel up the north of the Malaya Peninsula. And perhaps for that, the northern states of Kedah, Perlis, and Kelantan often seemed to me remote and exotic. In December 2005, I went up to Southern Thailand to hear the stories of ex-guerrillas of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) who have settled there after the 1989 ceasefire agreement. Their stories brought home to me the mutability of life at the border region, that lives and cultures and social certainties, not to mention the Malaysian-Thai national boundaries themselves, are in fact remarkably porous and open. Some men and women of the MCP, having lost their 'loved ones' (ai ren) remarried Thais and some adopted Thai children when they could not have any. During the Malayan Emergency (1948-60), they and their comrades crossed to and fro between Thailand and Malaysia at various points at the border undetected by the security forces. It is the postmodern geographer's wet dream. You can, in all seriousness, say that the MCP guerrillas and the Malaysian and Thai villagers on both sides of the borders make for 'flexible citizenship' of a sort. It is not the sort as Ong has described (1999), one of migration, employment with multinational corporations, and business class travelling, but less glamorously of jungle trek across the border to buy and sell, visit relatives and for a bit of smuggling and other clandestine undertakings. (Diesel is currently the favourite item to be smuggled from Thailand to Malaysia after the Malaysian authorities withdrew subsidy for users in the industries.) One wonders if the Islamic separatists among the Malays living in the southeastern Thai Provinces do not make use of the same freedom of movement and sanctuary the area offers.


As Embassy and ConGen reporting have been abundantly clear, Lee engaged in major political offensive against Alliance and visit to US certain to accentuate his controversy. Invitation to visit US would also be regarded as US interference in Malaysian internal politics, especially if USG host, and only strengthen conviction GOM leaders that USG pro Lee./4/ Lee's objective in any trip to US likely to be less to learn about US and its policies than to campaign intensively to win support of US leaders, press, public for himself and his views along lines recent visits to UK, Australia and NZ. Publicity and attention Lee would have to receive to achieve objectives reftel would, we fear, create more than irritation among Alliance leaders judging from reaction to Lee's trip to Australia and major significance GOM attaches any US actions affecting Malaysia. Official invitation to Lee, coming on top of present controversies over Indocom, textiles and other economic issues likely damage US-GOM relations without compensatory benefit.


11. Malaysia. The federal government in Kuala Lumpur has lost a potentially important source of revenue. During 1964, Singapore made a net contribution to the federal government of about $13 million, and was expected to contribute a larger amount in 1965. While there is no question of Malaysia's economic viability over the next several years, the country's ambitious economic development plans will almost certainly have to be revised downward. Already defense appropriations incurred because of Indonesia's Confrontation campaign have forced some reductions in expenditures for public development. Malaysia's major economic weakness continues to be its heavy dependence on the export of a few basic commodities. The price of rubber has been declining for several years. The prospects for continuing high prices for Malaysia's exports of tin, iron ore, and timber are good, but the maintenance of current levels of production will require substantial new exploration and investment.


20. Confrontation. The recent dramatic events in Indonesia--the attempted coup of 30 September and its aftermath--will almost certainly not result in an early settlement of Djakarta's campaign against Malaysia. The anti-Communist military leaders now vying with Sukarno for control of Indonesia are highly nationalistic and interested in expanding Indonesian hegemony. Nevertheless, they are less personally committed to Confrontation than Sukarno and, at least temporarily, much more concerned with ensuring the internal political and economic health of Indonesia than with foreign adventures. Under these conditions, it is unlikely that Indonesia will raise the level of military activity beyond present small unit actions in Borneo and occasional subversive missions in Malaya itself. Such action would enable the Indonesian military to maintain its nationalistic, anti-imperialistic posture before the Indonesian public. 041b061a72


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