‘I was wrong,’ admits historian over claims of Malaya massacre

News from UK: Guardian.co.uk

Police with locals under suspicion of collaborating with communist bandits during the Malayan emergency. Photograph: Bert Hardy/Getty Images


(Sunday 7 November 2010) A public inquiry into one of Britain’s darkest postwar military incidents, the alleged massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by UK troops in Malaya, has moved a step closer after the official British historian of the “Malayan emergency” last week withdrew his account of the 1948 incident. Professor Anthony Short said his initial report absolving British troops was “wrong”.

The plantation workers were shot by a 16-man patrol of the Scots Guards. Many of the victims’ bodies were reported to have been mutilated, and the village of Batang Kali was burned to the ground.

The British government has refused to apologise for the incident or offer reparation, although ministers are currently reconsidering whether to launch an independent inquiry into the alleged massacre later this month, a move that could pave the way for compensation to families.

John Halford, a partner at the law firm Bindmans, who is acting for one of the few surviving eyewitnesses of the killings, said: “The families of those arbitrarily killed at Batang Kali have waited 62 years for an acknowledgement that what happened defied the most basic legal and moral standards.”

Short, in an article entitled “The Malayan emergency and the Batang Kali incident”, describes the shootings as a “matter of dispute, recrimination, dishonesty, disgrace and disguise”.



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