Migration to the New Village

The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival this year is on the 19th of September, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month. The lustrous full moon is a symbol of reunion on earth.

Reunion was a luxury in war-time Malaya. First it was the Japanese invasion, later the 12-year Malayan Emergency  (1948–60), in the backdrop of intense fighting between the communist guerrilla insurgency led by the communist leader, Chin Peng, and the British administration. Thousands of people were killed; families were broken. Fear, betrayal, hatred and racial tension ensued.

Chin Peng left home at 16 as a fearless and zealous young man. In his twilight year, the only regret of the guerilla commander was losing his parents. He never saw his parents again for decades, when they died when Chin Peng was 39 and 52 of age. As a child whose father ran a bike shop, surely Chin Peng missed his childhood days tinkering with the bikes? Now his remains are still barred from the soil of his hometown in Malaysia.

Two suspected communist terrorists after capture by a Malayan Police patrol in the jungle.

Two suspected communist terrorists after capture by a Malayan Police patrol in the jungle. © IWM (DM 141)

Chin Peng disappointed his parents by changing his name from 王文华 (pronounced WANG Wenhua in standard Mandarin) to 陈平(code reference 7115-1627, pronounced CHEN Ping in standard Mandarin). Though he used more than 20 aliases in his fighting career, the world knows this fearless leader as CHIN Peng, a name that upset his parents, as the family surname had been changed. Chinese people value their surname as an inheritance.

CHIN Peng begged to be united with his parents at their graves to seek their forgiveness.  This battle failed, as by 2009, he had exhausted all legal channels with the Malaysian government. His dream of a reunion was shattered.

The British set up New Villages across Malaya to control the Chinese from communists.

From the film “The New Village”: The British set up New Villages across Malaya to control the Chinese from communists.

The New Villages for the Chinese

In Hollywood, Ruined Reputations and Truth, writer Valerie Davies described with colourful language what she thought about Chin Peng. The guerilla leader “was a Chinese called Chin Peng, who had trained in guerrilla warfare against the invading Japanese during the war. These guerrilla ‘freedom’ fighters were ruthless and brutal in their methods of intimidation.”

Valerie’s father volunteered to go to Malaya as an infantryman, to serve where communist Chinese guerrillas were terrorising the local populations and killing British rubber planters. She also described a special settlement called the New Villages in Malaya.

“Vulnerable and frightened Malays and Chinese labourers living on the edges of the jungle were re-settled in safe New Villages, where they had better conditions and pay than ever before – and after British pressure, were allowed to buy land and have the vote – so they didn’t need to support the ‘bandits’ as everyone else called them. Measures were put in place to stop the bandits getting food from the terrified local populations, and since the bandits also extorted food from the Sakai’s  – the aborigines – in the jungle, the Sakai’s hated them too.”

From “Hollywood, Ruined Reputations and Truth  by Valerie Davies

New Villages were a type of settlement unique to Peninsular Malaysia. They were originally established by the government as roadside relocation settlements for rural Chinese during the 12-year unrest known as Malayan Emergency (1948–60).

According to Britannica Encyclopaedia, the British took measures to suppress the insurgency by military means, which included a strategy that forcibly moved many rural Chinese into tightly controlled New Villages located near or along the roadsides. Although this policy isolated villagers from guerrillas, it also increased the government’s unpopularity.

A typical New Village in Malaya: a concentration scheme to try to curb the communists from 1948

From the film “The New Village” : A typical New Village in Malaya: a concentration scheme to try to curb the communists from 1948

New settlements for 500,000 villagers in 480 camps

The new Villages, to a lot of the Chinese, were concentration camps.   500,000 Chinese villagers were resettled into 480 camps throughout the Malay Peninsula. Such was a huge migration in the modern history.

Recently, an award-winning director, Wong Kew-Lit, made a historical film titled The New Village. The film was set in 1949 and it retold a story spanning 40 years revolving around the life of a Hakka family in the New Village. It depicted how the Chinese lived their daily lives after the British declared the state of emergency in Malaya.

How did the people survive the hassles from the guerillas in the jungle? How were the Chinese in the New Village treated by the British? How much freedom did the locals gain in the New Village? What happened when an innocent girl from the New Village fell in love with a handsome guerilla fighter?

However, the Malaysian government has not yet approved the screening of this film. According to The Star newspaper, the Malaysian government worried the film might have “glorified the communists terrorists and putting them in better light than members of the security forces during insurgency.”

The New Village film: life under the British rule in Malaya.

The New Village film: life under the British rule in Malaya: “The most gruesome concentration camp.”

The taglines of The New Village film are: The most gruesome concentration camps in the colonial history over hundreds of years. The most excruciating major migration of the Chinese in Malaysia.

If you are interested, I will continue with more stories about Chin Peng and his era. I hope you enjoy the spectacular moon this evening.

The Chin Peng series was inspired by Blog Exercises: What story should I share? by Lorelle VanFossen. You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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18 thoughts on “Migration to the New Village

  1. Lorelle VanFossen

    The moon has been amazing the past couple days. Filling the sky from low on the horizon, and I thought of this post while staring at it through the trees.
    So few people know nor understand these stories you are telling outside of that world. Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention, helping us to not just understand and appreciate history, but how it impacts the world today.
    I want more! Thanks.

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