The Malayan Campaign and the Emergency Revisited

Chairperson of the event, UTAR lecturer Mr Lim Kar Loke introducing Chye.


The Malayan Campaign and the Emergency Revisited

Famous Historian Speaks at UTAR Kampar


By Natalie Chan 


Seminar: Dark Days: The Malayan Campaign (1941-1942) and the Emergency (1948-1960) 【馬來亞戰役(1941-1942)與緊急法令時期(1948-1960)的黑暗歲月】

Speaker: Mr CHYE Kooi Loong

Chair: Mr LIM Kar Loke, Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, UTAR 

Date: Wednesday23 March 2011

Time: 2.00-4.00pm

Venue: A003(Block A), UTAR Perak campus)   

Organizer: Chinese Malaysian and Cultural Studies Unit, Centre for Chinese Studies Research, UTAR.

Medium: English

Chye addressing the audience.


KAMPAR: 90-odd UTARians were transported back in time to relive local history through the eyes of a Kamparian when Mr Chye Kooi Leong, renowned historian, spoke on "Dark Days: The Malayan Campaign (1941-1942) and the Emergency (1948-1960)" in auditorium A003, Block A on March 23.

Chye, 82, a former Home Guard warden during the Emergency, was a teacher until 1984 and awarded Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). He has spent seven years researching and documenting the battle of Kampar, a fierce clash between the British and Japanese troops which took place in four days between December 1941 and January 1942.


Chye recounted the days of the Japanese Occupation prior to the Emergency. He was only twelve when the Japanese forces arrived in then Malaya. Heattended school under Japanese teachers for six months before the troops moved on to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Isles.


"I learnt to plant paddy then," said Chye. "In only shorts and coconut oil on my back!" According to Chye, the Japanese were harsh with thieves. "Any one caught stealing would be executed in Kampar Padang. They were commanded to dig a pit, and kneel in front of it before their head was chopped off."


Chye elaborated further on the state of events in Perak during the Emergency which began in 1948, mentioning that the Emergency was caused by the failure of the Malayan communists in their demand for independence from the British.


They retaliated by murdering three planters in Sungai Siput.


The British administration then decided to relocate residents to guarded communities known as New Villages. This move was to ensure that the villagers would be kept away from being extorted by the communists and to discourage sympathizers from offering assistance.


"Rubber estates and owners were required to pay protection money," Chye said.


New Villages were guarded by security personnel known as Home Guards. Chye himself had the opportunity to serve as one from 1950 to 1960.


Chye recalled the restrictions imposedon the New Villagers at the height of the Emergency.


"The villagers would have to go to their workplace at the mine or rubber estate and return tothe village to have their lunch at midday," he said. 


Apart from food, medication was also a banned item to be brought out of the village. "Even fong yau (medicated oil in Cantonese) was banned!" he laughed.


After his presentation, Chye answered questions from the audience.


Chye ended with some words of advice for UTARians. "Study hard. There are no shortcuts to success," he stressed.


At the end of the session, Chye was presented with a token of appreciation from the organizer, Dr Wong Wun Bin,Head of the Chinese Malaysian and Cultural Studies Unit, Centre for Chinese Studies Research. It was a seminar of the Centre first ever conducted in English.

 (On projected slide) A photo of Chye posing with some British soldiers. He is at the bottom left.

Dictated by LIM Kar Loke


Why the British lost Malaya to the Japanese

1.         Malayans were overconfident about the invincibility of the British.

2.         The British were unprepared to fight with insufficient weapons. 

3.         The British were not properly trained to fight in the jungle while the Japanese were good in jungle warfare.

4.         The British were weak in its air force. Arms and planes were directed to Russiaagainst the Germans. 

5.         The Japanese had had very good spy intelligence in Malaya since the 1900s. 

6.         The British never trusted the local Chinese.  

7.         The British considered their navy the biggest in the world, yet two British warships were destroyed off the coast of Kuantan in 1941.  

8.         There was counterbalance between diverse groups of Indian soldiers: In a British regiment, 1 or 2 companies were Sikhs and the other 1 or 2 were Indian Muslims.

9.         Besides being patriotic to their country and Emperor, the Japanese army was well-trained and endured hardships. 

10.     Each British officer had an attendant to serve him with meals, get ready with his clothing and polish his shoes.


The British campaign in Kampar (30 Dec 1941-2 Jan 1942)

1.         One of the best battles fought by the British

2.         The British had 10 days  preparation to fight in Kampar. 

3.         Malaya was lost to the Japanesein 70 days.


The Emergency (1948-60)

1.         The Malayan Communists kept the ammunition taken from the Japanese and the British.

2.         Cause of the Emergency: The Malayan Communists demanded independence, but failed. They murdered 3 planters in Sungai Siput


Why the British defeated the Malayan Communists

1.         The British set up a Special Branch to tackle the Communists.   

2.         General Templer had a very good force of orang aslito look for Communist camps.

3.         Lai Tek, a double agent who worked for the Japanese, British and Communists, set the Malayan Communists up.

4.         Little support for the Communists came from the Chinese, who were threatened or badly treated by the Communists.

5.         Rubber estate owners and rubber tappers had to give protection money to the Malayan Communists.

6.         There was little support for the Communists among the Malays, who had strong faith in their religion.   

7.         Mr C C Too proved to be a well respectedanti-Communist expert. 




Mr and Mrs Chye pose for photographers together with Dr Wong (2nd from right), Lim (far left) and other guests.
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