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From Empire to Nationhood


New Path NewsNew Path NewsThe Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960, pitted more than 40,000 British, Commonwealth and Malay forces against a determined communist insurgency mainly led by ethnic Chinese guerrillas of the Malay Races Liberation Army.

Parade in MalayaParade in MalayaThe guerrillas had been trained by the British to resist the Japanese wartime occupation but now turned on their erstwhile allies and sought to foment revolution by disrupting the country's rubber production, vital to its economic survival.

British strategyBritish strategyThe majority ethnic Malay population was opposed to the insurgency, a reminder of the complex role of race in describing the story of decolonisation and the Cold War.

Security hintsSecurity hintsCritical to British success was the plan devised by the Director of Operations, Sir Harold Briggs, that involved the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Chinese jungle squatters to within the protection of fortified villages. This tactic isolated the 'bandits' and deprived the enemy of its local support.

He combined this with a 'hearts and minds' operation to improve living standards and win over the population.

The police restored civilian security and morale while new schools and clinics helped alleviate the effects of poverty. The campaign proved a model of how successfully to prosecute a low intensity war against guerrillas.

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