KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – The last Malaysian adult witness to the massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by British troops in 1948 has died, leaving the campaign for an official investigation uncertain, activists said Sunday.
Tham Yong, 78, who died on Friday, saw 14 Scots Guards kill the villagers in what became known as the “Batang Kali massacre” on December 12, 1948, families’ representative Quek Ngee Meng told AFP.
“With Tham Yong’s passing we have lost the final adult perspective to what happened in Batang Kali,” he said.
Last August, government lawyers in London indicated a provisional decision to reject any investigation after a decades-long campaign for an official probe.
“Tham Yong was the main appellant so her death leaves the campaign in uncertainty but the next living witness who was eight when he witnessed the event, is keen to proceed so we will continue to seek justice,” Quek said.
He said the group’s lawyers would be making further representations to London later this month.
The colonial authorities said at the time of the incident — at the beginning of a 12-year communist insurgency in the former Malaya — that the men were shot because they were suspected guerrillas fleeing the scene.
The then Malayan attorney general vindicated the troops and the massacre was largely forgotten until 1970 when a London newspaper ran an explosive account of the killings, publishing sworn affidavits by soldiers who admitted the villagers were shot in cold blood.
The revelations triggered uproar but a promised investigation was later dropped after a change in government in London.
In an interview with AFP in 2008, Tham Yong, a former rubber tapper, recalled “the day the British killed our men”.
“I’m still angry because these were innocent persons but labelled as bandits and communists, when all they were doing was collecting durians and not supplying food to the communists,” she said.
“My advanced cancer means I will not be around much longer, but I hope people remember what happened here so that those who were killed here are never forgotten.”
Source: AFP, 4/4/2010, http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100404/wl_uk_afp/malaysiabritainhistorymassacrecommunism