Chin Peng

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Chin Peng
Chin Peng wanted by Malaya.jpg
Headline on page 1 of The Straits Times of 1952
Born Ong Boon Hua
(1924-10-21)21 October 1924
Setiawan, Perak, Federated Malay States, British Malaya
Died 16 September 2013(2013-09-16) (aged 88)
Bangkok, Thailand
Residence Malaya, Thailand
Nationality Malayan
Successor Abdullah CD
Political party Malayan Communist Party
Spouse(s) Khoon Wah Keng

Chin Peng (Chinese: 陳平; pinyin: Chén Píng), former OBE,[1][2] (21 October 1924 – 16 September 2013[3]) born Ong Boon Hua (Chinese: 王文華; pinyin: Wáng Wénhuá) was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). A determined anti-colonialist, he led the party's guerrilla insurgency in the Malayan Emergency, fighting against British and Commonwealth forces in an attempt to establish an independent communist state. After the MCP's defeat and subsequent Malayan independence, Chin waged a second campaign against Malaya and, after 1963, the new state of Malaysia in an attempt to replace its government with a communist one from exile, until signing a peace accord with the Malaysian government in 1989.

Chin Peng died at the age of 88, in Bangkok, Thailand. Prior to his death, he was living in exile in Thailand and had not been permitted to return to Malaysia contrary to one of the conditions of the 1989 peace agreement.


Early years

Chin Peng was born on 21 October 1924, into a middle-class family who gave him the name Ong Boon Hua, in the small seaside town of Sitiawan, in Perak state, Malaya. His father had come to the town in 1920 and started a bicycle, tyre and spare motor parts business with the help of a relative from Singapore.[4] He attended a Chinese language school in Sitiawan. In 1937 he joined the Chinese Anti Enemy Backing Up Society (AEBUS), formed that year to send aid to China in response to Japan's aggression. According to Chin and Hack, he was not yet at that time a communist.[5] He was in charge of anti-Japanese activities at his school. Initially a supporter of Sun Yat-sen, by early 1939 he had embraced Communism. He planned to go to Yan'an, the renowned communist base in China, but was persuaded to remain in Malaya and take on heavier responsibilities for the party there.

In late 1939, by which time Chin had completed his study up to Senior Middle One, his school announced that the Senior Middle section was to be closed due to lack of money. He chose to continue his education in the Methodist-run Anglo-Chinese Continuation School, which operated in English, because it provided a good cover for his underground activities and because it was local so he would not have to move to Singapore for schooling. However, after six months he left the school "for fear of British harassment". [6] Once out of school, he concentrated on his political activities and became, from that point on, a full-time revolutionary. In January 1940 he had been put in charge of three anti-Japanese organisations that had a scope beyond the schools; they were for students, teachers, other cultural members and shop assistants. At the end of January 1940 he was admitted to the Malayan Communist Party as a candidate member. [7]

Harassment by the authorities led him to leave his home town for Kuala Kangsar in July 1940. (This may be the same movement as his leaving school, referred to above). Later he spent a month in Taiping. In September 1940 the party posted him to Ipoh as Standing committee member for Perak. In December he attained full Party membership.

In early 1941 AEBUS was dissolved. Chin Peng became Ipoh District committee member of the Party. "He led student underground cells of three Chinese secondary schools and the Party's organisations of the shop assistants, domestic servants of European families, workers at brick kilns and barbers." [7] In June 1941 he became a member of the Perak State Committee.

Rise to prominence

Chin Peng rose to prominence during World War II when many Chinese Malayans took to the jungle to fight a guerrilla war against the Japanese. These fighters, inspired by the example of the Communist Party of China, became known as the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). Chin Peng became the liaison officer between the MPAJA and the British military in South-East Asia.

The Japanese invasion of Malaya began in December 1941. In 1942 Chin was the junior of three members of the Secretariat of the Perak State Committee: Su Yew Meng was secretary and Chang Meng Ching (hanyan pinyin: Zhang Ming Jin) was the other member. In early 1943 the two senior members were captured by the Japanese, which left Chin Peng in charge. Contact with the Party's Central Committee had been lost; he attempted to re-establish it, travelling to Kuala Lumpur and meeting Chai Ker Meng. Later Lai Tek, the Party leader, sent another Central Committee member, Lee Siow Peng (Siao Ping), to replace Chin as State Secretary. However, Lee Siow Peng was captured not long after, while travelling to a meeting that was to be held in Singapore.

It was thus that the job of establishing contact with the British commando Force 136 fell to Chin Peng. The first party of that force, consisting of Capt. John Davis and five Chinese agents, had been landed in Malaya on 24 May 1943, by submarine. Chin Peng made contact with this armed group on 30 September 1943. He was active in his support for the British stay-behind troops, but had no illusions about their failure to protect Malaya against the Japanese. In the course of this activity, he came into contact with Freddie Spencer Chapman, who called him a 'true friend' in his Malayan jungle memoir, 'The Jungle Is Neutral'.

Because of his services during the war, Chin was awarded an OBE[8] (subsequently withdrawn by the British government), a mention in despatches and two campaign medals by Britain. He was elected the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Malaya after the betrayal of previous leader Lai Tek who turned out to be an agent for both the British and the Japanese and had denounced the leadership of the Party to the Japanese secret police. Chin Peng was the most senior surviving member.

The Emergency

The Malayan colonial administration declared a state of emergency on 16 June 1948 after members of the Communist Party of Malaya killed three European plantation managers at Sungei Siput. The CPM was banned in July. Many Singaporean historians and anti-communists allege that Chin Peng ordered the killings. Chin Peng claims he had no prior knowledge. In fact, he says he was so unprepared for the start of hostilities that he barely escaped arrest, losing his passport in the process, and he lost touch with the Party for a couple of days.[9]

The resulting civil war became known as the Malayan Emergency which lasted for twelve years until 1960. Chin Peng withdrew to southern Thailand with the remnants of his forces during the latter part of the Emergency as a result of security force pressure and at the end of 1960 moved to Beijing, which became his base for many years. In 1960 he wished to give up the armed struggle, but was told by Deng Xiaoping that South-East Asia was ripe for revolution.[citation needed] The CPM maintained a theoretical armed struggle for decades after.

The death toll climbed into the thousands. Those sympathetic to Chin Peng tend to portray the violence perpetrated by the CPM as defensive, while right-wing opponents tend to portray it as aggressive and unethical. Some have claimed the large number of civilian casualties was in contrast to the stance adopted by Mao Zedong and his policy of the Eight Points of Attention.

In 1970 the CPM's guerrilla bases in Thailand were convulsed by the trials and executions of supposed spies. Two breakaway factions were formed which condemned the purge. Chin Peng, who was then based in China, has denied involvement and later rehabilitated his accused comrades.[10]

The CPM laid down its arms in 1989. On 2 December of that year, at the town of Had Yai in Southern Thailand, Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin and Abdullah CD met with representatives of the Malaysian and Thai governments. Separate peace agreements were signed between the MCP and both governments. One of the terms of the agreement was that MCP members of Malayan origin be allowed to return to live in Malaysia.

Application to return to Malaysia

Chin Peng lived in exile in southern Thailand and also gave lectures at the National University of Singapore. At the beginning of 2000, he applied to be permitted to enter Malaysia. This was rejected by the High Court on 25 July 2005. In June 2008, Chin Peng again lost his bid to return to Malaysia when the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling that compelled him to show identification papers to prove his citizenship. Chin Peng maintained that his birth certificate was seized by the police during a raid in 1948. His counsel Raja Aziz Addruse had submitted before the Court of Appeal that it was wrong for the Malaysian government to compel him to produce the documents, because he was entitled to enter and live in Malaysia by virtue of the agreement.


Chin Peng died at the age of 88 in a hospital in Bangkok on the morning of 16 September 2013, and was cremated according to Buddhist rites. While he has previously voiced wishes to be buried in Sitiawan, his remains continued to be denied entry to and burial in Malaysia by its government, as it claimed that the one-year window after the agreement to reapply for citizenship has long lapsed and he is assumed to have relinquished his rights to return.[11]

Media portrayal

In 2006, a documentary film about Chin Peng was made called The Last Communist. It was banned by Malaysia's Home Affairs Ministry.

Another documentary film about him called I Love Malaya was released.[12]


  • 22 October 1924: Birth.
  • January 1940: Accepted as probationary member of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM); put in charge of Communist members in Sitiawan.
  • 4 July 1940: Leaves home.
  • December 1941: Communists' offer of help accepted; joins the fight against the Japanese.
  • 10 January 1942: The first batch of the Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).
  • 1942: Meets future wife, Khoon Wah.
  • 1945: World War II ends.
  • January 1946: Awarded 2 war medals; boycotts tour of British bases; forced to sign letter of apology.
  • Mid-October 1946: In Penang, Yeung Kuo reveals that Lai Teck has betrayed the CPM; Lai Teck subsequently absconds with most of party's money.
  • 6 March 1947: MCP Central Executive Committee meeting held to deal with Lai Teck controversy; Lai Teck fails to appear and is never seen by MCP again. Later, Chin Peng is elected secretary-general of MCP.
  • 1948: Three planters killed at Sungei Siput; Emergency declared; MCP declared illegal.
  • Late 1950: Briggs arrives in Malaya and implements "Brigg's plan" – resettling people into "New Villages". If the people refused to move, the British would forcibly remove them and sometimes burn down their houses. This made it difficult for the Communists to gain food supplies from the "Min Yuen", their supporters in the villages.
  • 6 October 1951: Sir Henry Gurney, British High Commissioner in Malaya, is assassinated on Gap road to Fraser's Hill by Siew Ma. It was a "chance" ambush by Siew Ma and his party and not a plan to assassinate Gurney.
  • 7 February 1952: Sir Gerald Templer, arrives to take the place of Gurney, and implements harsh measures against the Communists.
  • 28 December 1955: Baling Talks held with David Marshall and Tunku Abdul Rahman, unsuccessful because of surrender terms. After the Baling Talks, Chin Peng retires to Thailand. Ah Hai replaces him as acting Secretary-General in Malaya.
  • 1960: The Emergency is officially declared at an end. However, fighting still continues. Special Malaysian government troops going by the name "Senoi Praaq" prove to be a thorn in Chin Peng's side.
  • 2 December 1989: A peace treaty is signed between the communists, Thailand and Malaysia. The long, hard war the British had preferred to term an Emergency was over.
  • 6–8 October 2004: Chin Peng visits Singapore for 3 days to speak at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (ISEAS).
  • 2005: Chin Peng is pending to return to Malaysia. His hearing was scheduled for 25 May 2005, and the High Court postponed it to 25 July 2005. This application was subsequently rejected.
  • June 2008: Chin Peng's lost his bid to return to Malaysia when the Court of Appeal demanded he showed identification papers to prove his Malayan citizenship.
  • 16 September 2013: Chin Peng died at a hospital in Bangkok. He was 88. According to the Bangkok Post, he was pronounced dead at 6.20am (GMT+8).


  • 劉鑒銓等人,青山不老-馬共的歷程,(2004)香港:明報出版社 ISBN 962-8871-28-5
  • Chin, C. C., and Karl Hack. eds., Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party. (2004) Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2004 ISBN 9971-69-287-2


  1. Dead or Alive,(subscription required) TIME Magazine, (12 May 1952)
  3. "Chin Peng, 90 dies in Bangkok Hospital". 16 September 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. C.C. Chin and Karl Hack, Dialogues with Chin Peng, pp. 3, 38.
  5. Chin and Hack, p. 40.
  6. Chin and Hack, p. 39.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Chin and Hack, p. 41.
  9. Chin Peng, My Side of History, pp 215–222.
  10. Chin Peng, My Side of History, pp 466–469,499.
  11. Lim, Ida (20 September 2013). "Open door to Chin Peng's ashes since Malay terrorists also buried here, says MCA". The Malay Mail. Retrieved 20 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "I Love Malaya".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


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