Justice sought in the UK over Malaysian deaths (Video)

British forces killed 24 men suspected of helping communist rebels during the Malaya Emergency, 62 years ago this weekend.

The soldiers, from the Scots Guards, originally claimed that a group of rubber plantation workers were trying to escape capture in the village of Batang Kali, in what is now Malaysia.

But since then, some of the troops have confirmed claims that the killings were in cold blood and the families of the men are now calling for a public inquiry.

News Video Link From : BBC News Asia Pacific

Justice sought in UK over Malaysia deaths

Chong Koon Ying was only nine years old when British soldiers came to the rubber plantation and killed her father.

Today, on her first visit to the scene in decades, the stream helps her work out where the rows of trees used to be, where the family lived and where 24 men were shot dead on 11 and 12 December 1948.

“This is the place my mother came to identify the bodies,” she said.

Since her father and the other Chinese migrant workers were killed, the British government has ignored calls for an inquiry, and this month the latest petition has again been refused.

It was late afternoon when the platoon of Scots Guards arrived in Batang Kali, now just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, but then deep in the jungle and an area thought to be a Communist stronghold.

“They separated the men from the women,” she remembered, picking over some big stones which were all that remained of the house on stilts where they lived.

The Malaya Emergency was only six months old and the troops had come expecting trouble.

A guerrilla force which Britain had used to help defeat the Japanese in World War Two had turned on them, and Communist insurgents were attacking the rubber and tin producers who generated the colonial power’s biggest source of foreign income.

The men and the women were interrogated, asked where the insurgents were and accused of giving them food. One of the men was shot dead that evening.

“A woman was crying and the soldiers said if she didn’t stop they would shoot her,” Ms Chong remembered. She tried to keep her younger brother and sister quiet.

They spent all night in one big room with no food or water and the next day they were forced onto the back of a truck.

She then acted out the gunfire they heard – “boom, boom, boom” – pointing to the five different areas the men were taken and shot.

As the truck pulled away they saw the houses burning with everything they owned inside.

 

‘Stigma’

Ms Chong broke down as she remembered what happened.

“It’s heartbreaking, we were left with nothing. I am old, soon I will be in a coffin, but I hope there will be compensation,” she said.

The soldiers claimed the men were insurgents who had been shot as they tried to escape and a brief inquiry at the time supported that version of events.

But in 1970 some of the Scots Guards on patrol that day told a tabloid newspaper the men had been killed in cold blood – not while trying to escape, but illegally.

A Scotland Yard inquiry followed, but was abandoned after a change of government in Britain.

Then in the 1990s, following a BBC documentary, Malaysian authorities reopened the investigation, but again it was stopped before reaching a conclusion.

Now the latest petition for an inquiry has been rejected and the lawyer representing the families in Malaysia, Firoz Hussein, says he will challenge the decision in the British courts.

“We want a public inquiry that investigates precisely what happened, to exonerate the 24 villagers and we feel reparations should be paid to these people,” he said.

“The families are still tainted with the stigma that those executed were Communist terrorists.

“This issue must be put to rest finally – there must be a sense of justice achieved for all those executed, so no matter how long it takes we feel it should be brought to a close, and resolved.”

He acknowledged it would be difficult, as a long time had passed since the events and many witnesses had died, but said it was important lessons were learned about maintaining standards when at war.

 

History books

A spokesperson from the British Ministry of Defence issued a statement: “We do not condone any wrongdoing by UK forces. These events took place over 60 years ago so it is highly unlikely that UK forces operating in 2010 could learn any useful lessons from a public inquiry.

“The families of those who died may choose to take legal action to overturn this decision and so it would be inappropriate for us to comment further while the possibility of further legal proceedings still remains.”

The Malaya Emergency lasted 12 years and is still considered one of the few successful counter-insurgency campaigns.

British troops study the strategy and tactics used in Malaya before going to Afghanistan and commanders see it as an important part of today’s counter-insurgency approach in Helmand province.

Only a handful of those who were there that day are still alive, but the survivors and their families want their version of what happened in Batang Kali written into the history books.

Chong Koon Ying

Chong Koon Ying says her father’s death left her family with nothing

Link from : BBC News Asia Pacific

Malaysian campaigners ask Queen to press for action over 1948 deaths

Campaigners in Malaysia have petitioned the Queen to use her influence in gaining an apology and compensation from the British Government over an alleged massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by British soldiers in 1948.

The move comes after a request was rejected for an investigation into the killing of the 24 ethnic Chinese in the remote village of Batang Kali, Selangor province, despite a decades-long campaign. A lawyer acting for the victims’ families, Quek Ngee Meng, criticised the British government’s decision as “legally and morally hollow”, adding that the failure to hold an inquiry amounted to a “very British cover-up”.

The families along with a delegation from the Chinese Associations’ Federation have presented their petition in Kuala Lumpur. It asks that the Queen use her “vast influence” over the government to ensure it issues an “official apology” and “reasonable compensation” for the victims’ families and the wider community, which it sets at £30 million and £50 million respectively.

The families contend that a contingent of 14 Scots Guards entered the village on 12 December, 1948, and detained 25 unarmed men at the beginning of a 12-year insurgency in what was then the colony of Malaya.

Twenty-four of the men were killed while one, who fainted and was presumed dead, survived and is still alive. The men’s wives and children who had been separated from them witnessed the killings.

At the time a British investigation into the massacre found they were killed on a river bank to prevent them from escaping.

In 1970 a British newspaper reported the damning allegations on what is sometimes referred to as “Britain’s My Lai Massacre”. The revelations forced the Labour government to order an investigation but a lack of evidence led to the next government dropping the inquiry.

A BBC documentary in 1992 threw up fresh evidence of survivors’ testimony, the confession of Scots Guardsman and interviews with the Scotland Yard officers on the 1970 inquiry. The following year the families first petitioned the Queen demanding justice, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said no new evidence had been unearthed to warrant reopening an inquiry.

But the families refused to give up. In accepting the new petition the British High Commissioner, Simon Featherstone, said he would “faithfully convey their views to the British government” when he passes it on.

Link from www.telegraph.co.uk