Malaysia's Saleng villagers recall tragic massacres

Saleng was surrounded by rubber estates in the 1920s and most of its villagers were rubber tappers. Shops were built in Batu 17, as well as along both sides of the main street in the 1930s.

Villager Yang Yong Ye, 90, said that in the mid-20th century, the rubber industry boomed in Saleng, causing the village being surrounded by rubber estates.

Three Chinese schools were set up in Saleng at that time but one was closed due to the lack of students while the remaining two combined in 1939 before merging with another school in Senai.

The schools was forced to close in 1942 when the Japanese invaded Malaya and many hid in the school buildings. However, the Japanese later launched a massacre here, killing about 300 people.

Villager Zhang Jing, 85, disclosed that it was the Chap Goh Mei and before he and his father reached home, they heard that the Japanese army had besieged the school building and launched a massacre. He and his father were spared as they paid a visit to his sister's home before returning home.

The second massacre killing more than 100 people was said to have taken place the second year, and another movement to eliminate anti-Japanese activists was launched on the eve of the end of World War II. Zeng Qing Dong, 77, recalled that 40 days before the Japanese surrendered, his father was captured and brought to a bomb shelter, being tortured and killed.

The following order of emergency gathered all residents nearby in a new village until the emergency decree was lifted.

Saleng relied on rubber, pepper and pineapple plantations in early days. Since the 1970s, it continued developing and evolving, with mushroomed residential houses and manufacturing plants. From relying on agricultural activities, its villagers became electrical, electronics and plumbing technicians. There is also a number of them making a living in Singapore.

Saleng was devastated during the Japanese invasion era and villagers lived in fear collected bodies and bones of those massacred and placed them at a cemetery after the Japanese left.

It was written on a memorial stone that Malaya fell on January 31, 1942 and a bloody incident took place in the village on May 4 the same year, many Chinese were locked in nearby houses and burned alive. Their bodies were then thrown into a pond behind a school and were later buried in a public cemetery.

The Saleng School was founded in 1952 by villagers to educate the younger generations.

The school was renamed as SJK(C) Saleng in 1961. From having only a dozen of students, the school is now having more than 1,000 students.

The Saleng Zoo was a private zoo used to be one of the popular tourist attractions of Saleng.

However, the zoo, which had about 40 species of animals and been operated for only 16 years, failed to renew its permits as it was not meeting the international and local zoo guidelines, and was raided by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) on June 22, 2011.

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