KOTA KINABALU: Chin Peng’s last wish – to be buried in his birthplace in Sitiawan, Perak – will go unfulfilled as the Government will bar his remains from entering Malaysia.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said even the ashes of the former secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) would not be allowed back.
“The Malaysian Government will not be involved in the burial of this former CPM leader and we believe it will be done in Thailand,” he told the media here.
Chin Peng, who reportedly died of cancer in Bamrungraj Hospital, at age 89, fought and lost a nine-year legal battle to be allowed back in Malaysia. The Federal Court, on April 30, 2009, ruled against his application to reside in Malaysia because he was unable to prove he was born in the country.
Despite the apex court’s ruling, Chin Peng (real name Ong Boon Hua) kept insisting he was a Malaysian whose only wish was “to die in my birthplace and be buried among my ancestors”.
“This is my right and I hope nobody will deny me this,” he added.
He said this in an interview with The Star in November 2009 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Peace Accord between the Malaysian Government and the CPM, which was signed on Dec 2, 1989, in Haadyai, Thailand.
Chin Peng said even if he could not live out his life on Malaysian soil, he would still find a way to be buried in Sitiawan.
One way or another, “I will find my way to return home”, Chin Peng said. He added that he had tasked four of his close former comrades-in-arms to quietly bury his ashes in the cemetery where his ancestors’ graves lie.
It remains unknown who these comrades are. According to Chin Peng’s lawyer Darshan Singh Khaira, family members were still discussing funeral arrangements. The Bangkok Post reported that his family would perform religious rites for him on Friday.
Chin Peng fled to China in 1961 and later settled in Bangkok where he was granted an alien passport. He reportedly moved to Haadyai, Songkla in recent years and shuttled between Haadyai and Bangkok for his cancer treatment.
Chin Peng became CPM secretary-general at age 23 and was Britain’s “enemy number one” in South-East Asia. There was a 250,000 Malayan dollars bounty on his head, an amount equivalent to the first prize of the Social Welfare Lottery then.
According to veteran Hong Kong-based journalist Philip Bowring: “Fifty years ago, the name of Chin Peng was feared almost as much as Osama bin Laden is today”.
Chin Peng masterminded the attacks during the Emergency from 1948 to 1960, which resulted in about 10,500 deaths. The CPM mounted another insurgency in 1968, that claimed more than 300 lives.
For years, Chin Peng maintained that he and the CPM were engaged in a war with the country’s oppressors and they had nothing to apologise for. Even in his autobiography Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, he argued that the CPM was not responsible for the killings.
But during the interview with The Star, Chin Peng finally apologised to the victims and families of the CPM’s acts of violence. ‘’I take full responsibility for my comrades’ actions. (But) in war, we cannot differentiate the innocent from the non-innocent,’’ he said.
“That was war. That was then. If you say that we killed people, the communists, too, were killed by the security forces.”
His apology drew mixed responses with some saying it was not accepted nor his crimes ever excused. Others said he should be forgiven and allowed to return.
His death has reignited the debate, this time on whether his remains should be brought back.
Najib said Chin Peng would be remembered as a terrorist leader who waged war against the nation, sabotaged its economy and caused immeasurable cruelty to the people.