Communist Guerrillas Pledge End To 41-Year Struggle in Malaysia
HAT YAI, Thailand (AP) _ One of world’s longest insurgencies formally ended today as guerrillas of the Communist Party of Malaya pledged to lay down their arms and vowed loyalty to Malaysia.
Cease-fire agreements signed by the Communists, Malaysia and Thailand brought to a close 41 years of conflict that cost thousands of lives and at one time involved 70,000 British and Commonwealth troops.
Analysts in Thailand and Malaysia said meager prospects for success, changes sweeping the Communist world and perhaps China’s reluctance to be linked to the insurgency led to the cease-fire.
Under the agreements, 1,200 guerrillas who operate mostly along the rugged, 375-mile frontier are to lay down their arms and return to civilian life.
The Communist Party’s general-secretary, Chin Peng, pledged loyalty to the Malaysian government. ″We shall disband our armed units and destroy our weapons to show our sincerity to terminate the armed struggle,″ he said.
A joint communique said the Communists had agreed ″to terminate all armed activities and bring peace to the entire Thai-Malaysian border and Malaysia.″
The communique said Thailand and Malaysia will ensure fair treatment for the disbanded Communists, who began their ″war of liberation″ in 1948 when Britain ruled what was then called Malaya as a colony.
″The government of Malaysia will in due course allow former members of the disbanded armed units ... to freely participate in political activities within (the) framework of the federal constitution and the laws of Malaysia,″ the statement said.
The Communists in turn pledged to respect the laws of the two countries and to participate in social and economic development.
Chin Peng said the agreements were ″consistent with the current historical trend where the peoples of the whole world are striving for peace and democracy.″
On the eve of the ceremony, police lifted a 41-year-old curfew in many parts of Malaysia because they said there was no longer any threat from the guerrillas.
The statement said two agreements were reached, one between Malaysia and the Communist Party and the other between Thailand’s Internal Security Operations Command and the Communists.
The ceremony took place in Hat Yai, a southern Thai city 30 miles from the Malaysian border.
Chin Peng, who was last seen outside the Communist world in 1955, signed the agreements along with Thailand’s army commander, Gen. Chaovalit Yongchaiyudh, and Wan Sidek, secretary-general of the Home Affairs Ministry of Malaysia.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Commonwealth mobilized 70,000 troops to fight the largely ethnic Chinese insurgents, and the British-led force drove them into the jungle along the Thai-Malaysian border.
The British effort ended in 1960 after the deaths of more than 10,000 on both sides. But fighting on a lesser scale continued through the next decade, culminating with several successful Thai-Malaysian border sweeps and a Thai amnesty that enticed large numbers of guerrillas to surrender.
Despite the peace agreement, Malaysia has no plans to do away with internal security measures that allow for indefinite detention without trial.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters Friday that the law had helped maintain peace in a multiracial country.
Critics of Mahathir say the law is used to arrest activists who oppose government policies. About 65 people are being held under the law.
Of Malaysia’s 17 million people, 55 percent are Malays, 37 percent are Chinese and almost all the rest are Indians.