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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Malaysia bars communist leader
By Jonathan Kent
BBC correspondent in Kuala Lumpur

The Malaysian Government has rejected a request by the former leader of the country's communist guerrillas to return to his homeland.

Chin Peng, the secretary general of the Communist Party of Malaya, expressed a wish in his recently published memoirs to be able to visit the grave of his parents.

Chin Peng holds 1952 newspaper offering reward for his capture
Chin Peng was once Malaysia's most wanted man
Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, said the 79-year-old former guerrilla was still linked to a banned organisation with a history of perpetrating terrorism in the country.

But Mr Badawi, who is due to succeed Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister at the end of this month, suggested that the government might reconsider the issue in the future.

Once the British Empire's most wanted man, Chin Peng appears to have mellowed with age.

Regret for killings

His reflections on his 40-year fight against the colonial British, and later, the Malaysian authorities, were published earlier this month.

His return would rekindle too many memories
Ex-Servicemen's Association
Now living in exile in Thailand, he says he unequivocally rejects violence as a means of political struggle.

He also expresses regret for many of the killings carried out by his communist guerrillas and says he would like to be able to debate Malaysia's future with its young people.

But most of all, he says, he would like to come home and visit the graves of his parents and perhaps live out his last years.

The Ex-Servicemen's Association of Malaysia has opposed any such move, saying it would rekindle too many painful memories.

Chin Peng's memoirs, My Side of History, have put the so-called "emergency" years back on the agenda in Malaysia.

Popular memoirs stolen

The government appeared ready to ban the book but it garnered enthusiastic reviews even in the pro-government press and when the first shipment was released by the authorities, it sold out.

Strangely, a lorry containing the second shipment was stolen last week - the first time the Malaysian criminal underworld has shown such an interest in a heavyweight political autobiography.

Chin Peng fought against the Japanese in World War II and was later awarded an OBE by his then comrades, the British.

But from 1948 he waged a jungle warfare campaign to drive the British out.

It was a conflict that resulted in accusations of atrocities against both sides.

The government and the communists finally signed a peace treaty in 1989.

Country profile: Malaysia
08 Jul 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Malaysia
10 Mar 03  |  Country profiles

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