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Red Star Over Malaya

Resistance and Social Conflict During and After the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941–46

Cheah Boon Kheng

Publication Year: 2012

Red Star over Malaya is an account of the inter-racial relations between Malays and Chinese during the final stages and the aftermath of the Japanese occupation. As Japanese forces retreated into the big cities, the Chinese guerrillas of the communist-led resistance movement, the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), emerged from the jungle and took control of some 70 per cent of the country's smaller towns and villages. The ensuing conflict involving the Malayan Communist Party, the Malay population, and the British Military Administration marked a crucial stage in the history of Malaya. Based on extensive archival research in Malaysia, Great Britain, Japan and the United States, Red Star Over Malaya provides a riveting account of the way the Japanese occupation reshaped colonial Malaya, and of the tension-filled months that followed surrender. This book is fundamental to an understanding of social and political developments in Malaysia during the second half of the 20th century.

Published by: NUS Press Pte Ltd

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

List of Tables

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pp. vii

List of Figures

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pp. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. viii-ix

List of Appendices

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pp. x


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pp. xi-xii

Note on Malay Spelling and Currency

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pp. xiii

Note on Spelling of Chinese Language Script

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pp. xiii

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Preface to the Fourth Edition

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pp. xiv

I would like to thank the publisher NUS Press for allowing me to revise and update Red Star Over Malaya for the fourth edition. Since the original work was completed more than 30 years ago, much new research material have become available on many aspects of the...

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Foreword to the Third Edition

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pp. xv-xvi

Th e theme of Red Star Over Malaya is not the Japanese occupation. Rather it is inter-racial conflicts between Malays and Chinese that occurred during the final stages of the occupation, and the social unrest and breakdown of law and order that occurred during a...

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pp. xvii-xix

Th is work would not have been possible without the award of a research scholarship from the Australian National University from September 1975 to September 1978, for which I am most thankful. I wish also to express my appreciation to the University’s Department...

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pp. xx-xxiii

My interest in the post-Japanese surrender interregnum in Malaya was first aroused while I was an undergraduate at the University of Malaya in 1969. Dr Anthony Reid taught a course on new approaches to the study of Indonesian history and introduced students to John Smail’s stimulating work...

Part 1: The Roots of Conflict

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pp. 1-124

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1. Malaya's Plural Society in 1941

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pp. 3-17

In 1941 “Malaya” was a convenient British administrative and geographical term comprising three political units: (1) the Straits Settlements colony of Singapore, Malacca, and Penang; (2) the Federated Malay States (FMS) of Selangor, Perak, Pahang, and Negri...

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2. The Social Impact of the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1942-5

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pp. 18-56

The change of regime and the violence of war brought about by the Japanese occupation of Malaya altered the pattern of race relations and raised the political stakes. To the local population, politics in the broad sense became a life and death struggle. Much of the...

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3. The MCP and the Anti-Japanese Movement

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pp. 57-101

The Japanese occupation caused the demise of several pre-war political parties in Malaya, especially the Kuomintang, the Central Indian Association of Malaya (CIAM),* and the aristocratic-led Malay State Associations (Persatuan-Persatuan Negeri Melayu...

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4. The Malay Independence Movement

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pp. 102-124

In the struggle for Malaya, the revolutionary pro-Japanese political organization, the Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM), or Young Malay Union, whose activities before 1941 have been discussed in Chapter 1, clearly emerged as a rival to the Malayan Communist Party...

Part II: The Contest for Postwar Malaya, 1945-6

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5. The Post-Surrender Interregnum: Breakdown of Law and Order

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pp. 127-147

After the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945 there was a brief period in which law and order collapsed, rumour dominated fact, and diverse groups in Malaya were faced with critical decisions. One of the most important rumours was that the British army...

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6. The MPAJA Guerrillas Takeover

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pp. 148-169

Owing to the delayed arrival of the British occupation forces, Force 136 officers in the field were daily reporting signs of unrest in the MPAJA ranks.1 Th e Japanese had begun withdrawing their garrisons from outlying towns and districts on 22 or 23 August. In remote...

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7. Outbreak of Violence and Reign of Terror

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pp. 170-193

Something of the turbulent conditions prevailing in the countryside in Malaya, when shots were heard day and night, can be conveyed by the violent incidents which erupted during the two-week break - down of law and order, especially the conflict between...

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8. The Malay/MCP/Chinese Conflict

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pp. 194-239

Of all the branch organizations and movements of Islam, the mystical and semi-secret Sufi tarekat (brotherhoods or orders) are regarded as the foremost missionary vanguard. Their members comprise holy men and the Islam they represent is oft en called...

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9. Conflict between the Communists and the BMA

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pp. 240-264

One of the first policies adopted by the BMA was the granting of the fullest freedom of speech, publication, and association in the country — one of the eight demands of the MCP’s manifesto of 27 August 1945. By also adopting the policy that the prewar...

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10. The Malay-British Conflict

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pp. 265-292

Under the BMA the whole of Malaya, including the nine Malay states, came under one direct and unified administration identical to what the Japanese had established during their occupation. The British had failed to introduce such a system of administration in...

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11. Conclusion

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pp. 293-300

Th e eventful period covered by this study — 1941 to 46 — is central to an understanding of post-war political developments in Malaya. It was during this time that the die was cast. Th is period marked the first real contest for political power in Malaya between...


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pp. 301-315


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pp. 316-353


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pp. 354-369


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pp. 370-375

E-ISBN-13: 9789971696276
Print-ISBN-13: 9789971695088

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 4 maps, 28 images
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Fourth edition