Former communist chief Chin Peng dies

Former communist chief Chin Peng dies

EXILED former Malayan Communist Party (MCP) leader Chin Peng has died in Bangkok at the age of 88.

The Perak native was once Malaysia's most wanted man, having led a guerilla campaign against British colonial rule, and then continuing that fight after Malaysia gained independence in 1957.

On Monday morning, he died in relative anonymity in Thailand's private Bumrungrad International Hospital. He is survived by a son and a daughter, who are in their 60s. His funeral wake will be held in Bangkok's That Thong temple on Friday. According to news agency reports citing Thai officials, he died of cancer.

Chin Peng had lived in Thailand since the conclusion of a peace treaty in 1989 that ended a 41-year armed struggle.

Barred from returning to Malaysia, he launched a legal challenge in 2005, but it was quashed by the Malaysian courts on the basis that he did not have birth and citizenship certificates.

On Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that Chin Peng's ashes would not be allowed into the country.

"Chin Peng will be remembered in Malaysia as a terrorist leader of a group that waged war against the nation and caused immeasurable cruelty to the people and for attacking our security forces," he was quoted as saying in The Star.

Author Ian Ward, who wrote the 2003 autobiography, Chin Peng - My Side Of History, said Chin Peng spent his last years looking after the welfare of his former comrades.

"There are a lot of former party members living in various camps in Thailand. He spent his last years looking after the old comrades and the families of dead comrades," he said. "And they looked after him."

In a press statement released on Monday, his former comrades in Thailand said: "He had the wisdom and courage to bring peace to our country. He had done his part and yet he had been denied return to his beloved motherland."

Chin Peng, born Ong Boon Hua in 1924, was given an Order of the British Empire award for his role in fighting the Japanese who occupied Malaya during World War II.

After the war, he led communist forces in an armed insurgency against the colonial government, and continued that guerilla campaign after 1957, with bases in southern Thailand.

Yazhou Zhoukan's Singapore- based special correspondent Chong Tien Siong noted that several thousand communist members were also killed because of infighting in the MCP. These unresolved deaths were "one of the reasons he had not succeeded in returning to his birthplace", he said.

In a 2009 interview with The Star, Chin Peng had said: "I am an old man now and have forgotten many things. I have mixed feelings whenever I think of the past."

tanhy@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Leong Weng Kam and Reme Ahmad


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