Communist insurgency in Malaysia (1968–1989)

Communist insurgency in Malaysia
Part of the Cold War and continuation of the Malayan Emergency
Malaysian Rangers, Malay-Thai border (AWM MAL-65-0046-01).JPG
Sarawak Rangers (present-day part of the Malaysian Rangers) consisting of Ibans leap from a Royal Australian Air Force Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter to guard the Malay–Thai border from potential Communist attacks in 1965, two years before the war starting in 1968.
Date17 June 1968 – 2 December 1989
(21 years, 5 months, 2 weeks and 1 day)[9][10]

Peace agreement reached


Anti-communist forces:

Supported by:
 United Kingdom[4]
 New Zealand[5]
 United States
 South Vietnam (until 1975)

Communist forces:
Malayan Communist Party[6]

Communist Party of Thailand (until 1983)

Supported by:
 Soviet Union[7]
 Vietnam (until late 1970s)
North Kalimantan Communist Party
Commanders and leaders
Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah (1968–1970)
Tuanku Abdul Halim (1970–1975)
Yahya Petra of Kelantan (1975–1979)
Ahmad Shah of Pahang (1979–1984)
Iskandar of Johor (1984–1989)
Azlan Shah of Perak (1989)
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Abdul Razak Hussein
Hussein Onn
Mahathir Mohamad
Bhumibol Adulyadej
Thanom Kittikachorn (until 1973)
Seni Pramoj (1975; 1976)
Kukrit Pramoj (1975–1976)
Kriangsak Chamanan (1977–1980)
Prem Tinsulanonda (1979–1988)
Chin Peng[13]
Abdullah CD[14]
Rashid Maidin
Phayom Chulanont 
Casualties and losses
155 killed
854 wounded[19]
212 killed
150 captured
117 surrendered[19]
Part of a series on the
The independence of Malaya and the merger proclamation of North Borneo and Sarawak to formed Malaysia.
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The Communist insurgency in Malaysia, also known as the Second Malayan Emergency (Malay: Perang insurgensi melawan pengganas komunis or Darurat Kedua), was an armed conflict which occurred in Malaysia from 1968 to 1989, involving the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and Malaysian federal security forces.

Following the end of the Malayan Emergency in 1960, the predominantly ethnic Chinese Malayan National Liberation Army, armed wing of the MCP, had retreated to the Malaysian-Thailand border where it had regrouped and retrained for future offensives against the Malaysian government. The insurgency officially began when the MCP ambushed security forces in Kroh–Betong, in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia, on 17 June 1968. The conflict also coincided with renewed tensions between ethnic Malays and Chinese in peninsular Malaysia and the Vietnam War.[20]

While the Malayan Communist Party received some limited support from the People's Republic of China, this support ended when the governments of Malaysia and China established diplomatic relations in June 1974.[21][22] In 1970, the MCP experienced a schism which led to the emergence of two breakaway factions: the Communist Party of Malaya–Marxist-Leninist (CPM–ML) and the Revolutionary Faction (CPM–RF).[23] Despite efforts to make the MCP appeal to Malays, the organisation was dominated by ethnic Chinese throughout the war.[21] Instead of declaring a "state of emergency" as the British had done previously, the Malaysian government responded to the insurgency by introducing several policy initiatives including the Security and Development Program (KESBAN), Rukun Tetangga (Neighbourhood Watch), and the RELA Corps (People's Volunteer Group).[24]

The insurgency came to an end on 2 December 1989 when the MCP signed a peace accord with the Malaysian government at Hatyai in southern Thailand. This coincided with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc Communist regimes.[25] Besides the fighting on the Malayan peninsula, another Communist insurgency also occurred in the Malaysian state of Sarawak in the island of Borneo, which had been incorporated into the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.[26]


During the first Malayan Emergency (1948–1960), the MCP launched an unsuccessful insurrection against the Federation of Malaya. The independence of the Federation of Malaya on 31 August 1957 removed the major cause for the communists as the Federation had gained full autonomy from the United Kingdom. The first Malayan Emergency ended on 31 July 1960. Between 1960 and 1968, the MCP underwent a period of streamlining, retraining, and re-indoctrination of the communist ideology. The Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) had established a series of bases along the Malaysian-Southern Thailand border. Despite being weakened by the Commonwealth forces during the first Emergency, the MCP boasted a nucleus of between 500 and 600 well-trained guerrillas and a reserve of about 1,000 men, available for full-time service if required.[27] The MCP had also reorganised its units and reconstituted itself by training new guerrilla fighters. They also developed new techniques of guerrilla warfare after observing the Vietnam War.[28][29]

The MCP also made efforts to recruit more Malays into their organisation. Despite a small number of Malay personnel, including Abdullah CD and Rashid Maidin, it remained dominated by the Chinese. A special Malay unit, known as the 10th Regiment was established under the leadership of a Central Committee member, Abdullah C.D. Abdullah also established several "Masses Revolutionary School" (Sekolah Revolusi Rakyat) to disseminate Maoist ideas among Thai Malays. Since the MCP was based in southern Thailand, most of its recruits were Thai Malays and people from Kelantan, a northeastern Malaysian state.[14][30]

To enhance the appeal of the MCP among the Malays, the Islamic Brotherhood Party (Malay: Parti Persaudaraan Islam, PAPERI) was set up as the front organisation of the MCP. PAPERI was responsible for distributing leaflets claiming that there was no incompatibility between Islam and Communism.[14] In July 1961, Chin Peng met Deng Xiaoping in China. Deng had proposed to the MCP that it conduct a second armed struggle. Deng insisted that Malaya was ripe for a revolution. The success of Vietnam War bolstered the MCP to launch another revolt in Malaya. Deng later promised Chin Peng that China would assist the MCP and contribute US$100,000 for the second insurgency in Malaya.[31][32]