He passed away in a private hospital in Bangkok yesterday morning at the age of 88.
You may well be asking, “Who is Chin Peng?”. Well, he was the former leader of the Malayan Communist Party and its military arm the Malayan National Liberation Army, which fought a bloody guerrilla war against British Colonial rule in Malaya (modern-day Malaysia, which became independent from Britain peacefully in 1957) between 1948 and 1960, and then fought a new insurgency war against independent Malaysia between 1968 and 1989.
Unlike fellow southeast Asian anti-colonialist figures that included Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh, Indonesia’s Sukarno, Myanmar’s Aung San and Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihanouk, Chin Peng was defeated – twice in fact: in the first war by British Commonwealth and Malayan armed forces, and in the second war by a combination of the Malaysian army, the rapid economic growth of Malaysia and the collapse of the communist Soviet Union. As a result he had the distinction of being the only such revolutionary leader who failed to win his struggle. He had lived here in Thailand for many years in exile.
Chin Peng’s name was familiar to me because many years ago I enjoyed reading Leslie Thomas’s popular trilogy of “Virgin Soldiers” comedy novels about British soldiers carrying out their National Service during the Malayan communist war in the early 1950s. And on that slightly related subject: the first and third novels in that trilogy were made into feature films in 1969 and 1977, and it is interesting to compare the distinctly British humour in both of those films with the style of humour in the 1970 American feature film “M*A*S*H” (itself based on a novel), which is about US involvement in the communist war in Korea that occurred around the same time.