MALAYSIA - Was it ashes or just memorabilia of the late Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng?
The Penang International Airport was a flurry of activity when two men, who arrived from Bangkok on a Thai Airways flight, were detained on Tuesday night.
Police had surrounded the airport before the plane landed, The Star reported. The presence of senior police officers had earlier sparked off speculation that the duo were arrested for carrying Mr Chin Peng's ashes.
The two men are a 59-year-old Hong Kong national and a 66-year-old Penang resident.
Their luggage was seized and they were taken to a nearby police station. They were arrested under the Printing Presses and Publications Act.
At a press conference on Wednesday morning, Penang police chief Senior Deputy Commissioner Abdul Rahim Hanafi said there was no ash, but only memorabilia such as books, CDs and a cap with the communist emblem. The items were seized by the police.
A local police source said the two men had attended Mr Chin Peng's funeral in Thailand and had bought a lot of memorabilia.
His ashes or memorabilia will not be allowed into the country, insisted Inspector- General of Police (IGP) Khalid Abu Bakar.
The IGP's stance contradicts that of Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who told reporters in parliament on Wednesday that the Home Ministry did not have the right to stop anyone from bringing in the ashes.
IGP Khalid said police will take stern action against any person or party who tries to revive the communist movement in the country, including bringing in the memorabilia.
"Bringing such items into the country is strictly prohibited," he said, adding that the police had recently made a similar arrest in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah's main border town on the Malaysia-Thailand border.
"It not the first time certain parties tried to smuggle Chin Peng's items into the country.
"Let me say this again... Chin Peng is not a Malaysian citizen, he is a traitor. His remains, ashes or memorabilia will never be allowed to enter the country."
Mr Chin Peng, whose real name is Ong Boon Hua, led Malaya's communist forces in a protracted and bloody battle against the British colonial authorities and then the Malayan government more than 50 years ago.
He died of cancer on Sept 16. He was 88.
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