Malayan Emergency declared

Wednesday, 16 June, 1948 - Saturday, 31 July, 1948
Cameron Highlands, Malaya

Following the Japanese invasion and occupation of Malaya in 1941, its multi-racial population suffered hardship as the Japanese disrupted the country's economic resources, mainly rubber and tin, as production was reduced to fulfil only Japan's needs. Because there was no export market, plantations were abandoned, and mines closed. The situation was exacerbated by the loss of imports of vital machine parts and of course the loss of the population's imported staple diet - rice.

From 1942, the population experienced famine as displaced plantation workers and miners did not have the farming skills necessary to grow and produce rice and other crops. By the end of the war, and the return of British administration, there was political unrest. When the British attempted to establish the Malayan Union, a state where all ethnic groups had equal rights, the indigenous Malays objected to such an extent that the British abandoned the idea. As a result, the Chinese, who had played a prominent role in resisting the Japanese, felt betrayed.

During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) had led the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), the guerrilla force which had been the principal resistance in Malaya against the Japanese occupation. The British had trained and armed the MPAJA and, although it was disbanded in December 1945, some 4,000 MPAJA did not disarm and, retaining their weapons, went underground and into the jungle. The MCP, led by Chin Peng, who was the Secretary General of the Malayan Communist Party, formed the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) in January 1949. The MNLA was also known as the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) or the Malayan People's Liberation Army (MPLA).

With the failure of the Malayan Union, the 3 million plus Chinese had no votes or rights and it was some 500,000 of these, known as 'squatters' who farmed around the edges of theses jungle areas, that supported the MNLA. On 16 June 1948, in the office of the Elphil Estate twenty miles east of the Sungai Siput town, Perak, three European plantation managers were killed by three young Chinese. Two days later, on 18 June, a state of emergency was declared in the British colony of Malaya. The MCP and other left-wing parties were outlawed, and police powers were granted to detain both communists and persons suspected of assisting them. Thus, began the guerrilla campaign, with the MNLA attacking rubber plantations, mines, police stations and undertaking sabotage operations, including the derailing of trains.

The initial British reaction to the crisis was to introduce emergency legislation and allowing suspects to be detained without trial. Curfews and movement restrictions were also imposed. Malaya's original military garrison consisted of six Gurkha, three British and two Malay battalions. Reinforcements, including the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, were sent from August 1948 onwards. During the period of the Malayan Emergency, there were 1,443 recorded deaths of British Armed Forces personnel.

To read an account by an officer on secondement to The Royal Malay Regiment, please open the attached document below.