Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Many people's warriors and fighters of the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) during the 44-month Japanese occupation of Malaya were martyred on the battlefileds or inside torture chambers or jails.

Although there is still no official monument to remember and honour their supreme sacrifices for the defence of this land and its peoples, memorials and tombstones privately funded and maintained by grateful people can be found all over Peninsular Malaysia.

This September 1 Martyrs' Memorial in Nilai Park is the most well-known and symbolic one because many of the 18 martyrs, killed on the early morning of 1 September 1942 in a village near Batu Cave in Kuala Lumpur after battling with about 2,000 Japanese troops, were the then top leaders and cadres of the Communist Party of Malaya which launched, organised and operated the only functioning armed resistance to Japanese occupation.

The 18 were identified as Lee Cheen Choong @ Siow Choong, Chu Ler Kwong, See Ching Piaw, Chen Soo, Yee Hong, Cheong Kee Sang, Choong Chen Kang, Chen Fan Siong, Wen Yen, Ah Yen, Wang Kwong, Pao Loon, Siow Lin, Liew Yiew, Pang Yu, Liew San Nai, Liew Koon and Chang Kwan Foong.

The Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) was the guerrilla forces founded and led by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Peninsular Malaya and Singapore. By all historical accounts, it was the largest and most organised armed resistance to the 44-month Japanese occupation.

On Dec 18, 1941, British military authorities reached an agreement with CPM in Singapore to cooperate to fight further Japanese southward advance to Singapore.

On Dec 31, 1943, Lord Vice Admiral Louise Mountbatten's Ceylon-based South East Asia Command (SEAC) also signed the Blantan Agreement with MPAJA in Perak to further military co-operation in anticipation of an Allies' general counter-offensive against Japanese-occupied Malaya.

By virtue of these two agreements, MPAJA itself was therefore effectively a component of the Allies' forces in the Pacific War.

During the Occupation, MPAJA was organised into eight independent regiments covering Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Northern Johore and Malacca, Central and Southern Johore, Central and Northern Malaya, Northern Pahang, Eastern Pahang and Terengganu, and Kedah and Perlis. According to the regimental history of MPAJA published in Hong Kong in 1991, it fought about 340 engagements with Japanese troops and killed about 5,500 of them.

At the end of the war, MPAJA numbered about 9,900 fully armed personnel with about 45,000 reservists and political, intelligence and logistics operatives.

Between the announcement of Japan's surrender on Aug 15, 1945 and the return of the British troops on Sept 3, 1945, MPAJA liberated and occupied many towns and villages. Ipoh, for example, was first liberated by the 5th Independent Regiment of MPAJA and one of the most celebrated partisan against Japanese occupation, Sybil Kartigasu, was first rescued by MPAJA.

Parts of MPAJA were demobilised after the British return, but some other parts prepared for anti-colonial armed struggle. On June 20, 1948, the colonial authorities declared 'Emergency', and many MPAJA veterans were either killed, detained, banished to China or compelled by circumstances to take up arms and retreated into the jungle to fight another two wars that lasted until 2 December, 1989.

According to an estimate cited in a memorial service by the Chinese community in Kuala Lumpur in 2003, during the Occupation, about 70,000 people of all ethnic communities were killed, while another 80,000 perished as the result of tortures and imprisonments and also an additional 300,000 died because of malnutrition and physical exhaustion in performing forced hard labour.

In the total number of those who perished, an estimate of 300,000 were Chinese. That figure represented 17 percent of the then entire Chinese population in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Also, in an estimate presented by Professor P Ramasamy in a 1984 study of Indian Malaysians' socio-political development from a historical perspective, " 60,000 Malayan Indians died while working for the Japanese on the Siamese 'Death Railway'.

In addition, after the fall of Singapore, thousands of British, Australian, Indian and other soldiers and commanders were interned as imperial Japan's prisoners of war in, among other places, Kuala Lumpur's Pudu Prison, Singapore's Changi Prison as well as POW camps in Northeastern China (or Manchuria).

Spirit of September 1 Martyrs (in Chinese)

Martyr Toh Lung San's brief biography (in Chinese)

Malay Communists recall Anti-Fascist War (in Chinese)

A visit to Singapore's Fort Siloso (in Chinese)