Journey to the South & Locations

The Journey

Our journey took us over one and a half years. We spent, 160 hours on the road between Singapore and Southern Thailand, covering more than 5,000 km and using over 60 hours of tape. It felt like a race against time, as many of the comrades were getting on in years.

Two of them passed away we interviewed them. Each time, we were left wondering who would be next.

Initially, our journey centered on Chin Peng. But we soon realized the man was inaccessible. True to his subversive, guerilla character, he remained elusive and distant, refusing to be interviewed despite much persuasion, cajoling from his lawyers, comrades and relatives. Each time we sought to approach him, the answer that returned was frustratingly similar: “This is a sensitive subject, Chin Peng does not want to jeopardize his court case. He will reconsider when the case is over.”

Yet his case has been dragging on, and the resolution never came. We watched half bemused, half frustrated as the Penang High Courts repeatedly delayed the hearings. They gave one excuse after another to postpone the first hearing, finally transferring his case to Kuala Lumpur, only to postpone it again indefinitely, two days before the National Day celebration.

Undeterred from not being able to meet the man, we visited the other former communist guerillas, many who have been living in the jungles of southern Thailand for the last 40 years since the Emergency began in 1948. In an unexpected twist, our futile search for Chin Peng led us to open the doorway to a treasure trove of stories from amazing characters, such as tough-cookie Xueying who left home with no more than a shirt on her back to join the communist party more than 50 years ago; Suriani, also known as Eng Ming Ching, the beautiful war heroine; who was famed for her beauty in her younger days, and Singaporean Liu Bo who yearns for his son whenever he thinks about the life he left behind.

In making this documentary, we hope to make this bit of forgotten history available to a wider public, especially the younger generation. Many of us may know of uncles and aunts and even parents or grandparents who had been directly involved in the struggle for independence in the Singapore and Malaysia left-wing movement. We hope these stories, buried for so long, can be told before they are lost forever.

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Glossary of Locations

Chulaporn Village No.9, Banlang, South Thailand

The village is nestled in the forests of Banlang Dam. The larger of the two Chinese villages houses a columbarium where the MCP Central Committee members and many others are laid to rest. Rather like an old folk’s home, the residents here eke out a quiet living tapping rubber and growing fruit trees.

Chulaporn Village No. 10, Betong, South Thailand

This is a rather popular tourist spot for visitors to Betong, a town just minutes from the border checkpoint at Pengkalan Hulu in Perak, Malaysia. A highlight here is the old jungle camp used by the communists when they were still in the jungles.

Chulaporn Village No.12, Sukhirin, South Thailand

The largest of the four peace villages with close to 400, this is also the village of the only Malay regiment in the MCP. Three Central Committee Members- CD Abdullah, Abu Samah and Suriani reside in this Muslim village.

Sitiawan

Sitiawan is a small town in Perak, Malaysia. It is the birthplace of Chin Peng where he was educated and inducted into Malayan Communist Party. The state of Perak was known as a “red” zone, where there was a concentration of communist activities, perhaps because of its hilly terrain, which made fertile hiding grounds.

Penang

Chin Peng’s court hearings took place in the High Courts of this island state and former Straights Settlement. Although the case was transferred to KL, no hearings had taken place.


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