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The News Line: Feature BRITISH TROOPS MASSACRED UNARMED MALAYS AT BATANG KALI! SUCCESSIVE British administrations have hidden the truth about the massacre of 24 unarmed Malaysian rubber plantation workers by UK troops in 1948, says a UK-based lawyer representing relatives of the victims.

The current Tory-led government’s refusal last November to hold a formal investigation into the Batang Kali killing was challenged in a two-day judicial review hearing at the High Court in London that began on Tuesday.

Family members of the victims asked the court to quash the UK government’s 2010 decision against holding an inquiry into the case, despite evidence pointing to an extra-judicial killing spree.

‘What happened at Batang Kali was an extremely serious human rights abuse on any view at all,’ said John Halford, one of the lawyers of the families of the victims, in a press conference on Monday.

‘It was a massacre of 24 unarmed people who weren’t in any sense combatants, weren’t offering any kind of threat to the British troops who killed them.

‘That in itself is serious enough, but what then followed was a cover-up that has basically lasted the following 60 years to this day, where the British government has denied that anything untoward happened at all.’

The massacre involving members of G Company, 2nd Scots Guards, occurred 64 years ago, while British troops were trying to put down the post-Second World War Communist insurgency known as the Malayan Emergency.

Soldiers surrounded the rubber estate at Sungai Rimoh in Batang Kali, north of Kuala Lumpur, and shot dead 24 villagers before setting the village on fire.

‘What’s happened ever since is that officials, essentially British officials, have conspired to maintain the official account and suppress that very basic truth that these killings were unlawful and could never be justified,’ Halford added.

Meanwhile, condemning the ‘cold-blooded massacre’by UK troops, 76-year-old Lim Ah Yin, a survivor who has travelled to London for the case, asked for the UK government to show ‘fairness’ about the case.

Furthermore, Loh Ah Choi, who was seven at the time of the deadly incident, said, ‘I would like the British government to apologise.’

However, a British Foreign Office spokeswoman said, ‘It is very unlikely that a public inquiry could come up with recommendations which would help to prevent any recurrence.’

In Tuesday and Wednesday’s the High Court judicial review test case, the family members are seeking a public inquiry or other effective, independent investigation into what happened at Batang Kali, its misrepresentation as lawful and justified by British officials, and the active steps taken to suppress the truth.

They are asking the High Court to quash decisions of the Secretaries of State for Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs refusing both that inquiry and investigation.

Loh Ah Choi is the second claimant in the judicial review case – his uncle Loh Kit Lin, a student, was shot in the stomach on 11 December 1948 then ‘finished off’ as he lay wounded on the ground.

Loh Ah Choi was being taken away by lorry with other women and children from the village as 23 male villagers were walked from the village huts and executed.

Chong Koon Ying, also present in the village as a child, is a witness.

Lim Ah Yin is a further witness who was age 11 when the killings took place.

The families are being represented in Court by barristers Michael Fordham QC, Danny Friedman and Professor Zachary Douglas.

The Batang Kali massacre occurred during what was referred to as the ‘Malayan emergency’, a guerrilla war between colonial forces and the communist Malayan National Liberation Army, who were principally of Chinese ethnic origin.

A counter-insurgency operation was launched in the Selangor region, now in peninsular Malaysia, because British forces had received intelligence of ‘bandit’ (insurgent) activity there.

As part of this operation, between 11 and 12 December 1948 soldiers of the 7th Platoon, G Company, 2nd Battalion of the Scots Guards surrounded and took control of the village of Batang Kali, part of a British-owned rubber tapping estate.

None of the villagers was wearing a military uniform or emblem.

None was armed, and none offered any violence to the patrol. In those circumstances, there was simply no basis or justification for the use of lethal force.

However, over the course of two days the patrol shot dead 24 unarmed Chinese rubber tappers – all but two of the adult men of the village.

Many of the victims’ bodies were mutilated. The village was burned to the ground, leaving the victims’ dependents destitute.

The bodies were left where they lay, and had begun to decompose by the time the women and children were allowed to return. One was found beheaded.

In contrast to similar incidents elsewhere in the world (e.g. the My Lai massacre by US troops during the Vietnam war and the massacre at of villagers at Rawagede, Indonesia) there has been no proper investigation into the Batang Kali incident.

The UK authorities have never apologised or accepted anything done was wrong; on the contrary, a demonstrably false ‘official account’ has been disseminated, including in statements to Parliament.

Mark Curtis writes in ‘The War in Malaya 1948-60’ – ‘At Batang Kali in December 1948 the British army slaughtered twenty-four Chinese, before burning the village. The British government initially claimed that the villagers were guerrillas, and then that they were trying to escape, neither of which was true. A Scotland Yard inquiry into the massacre was called off by the Heath government in 1970 and the full details have never been officially investigated.

‘Decapitation of insurgents was a little more unusual – intended as a way of identifying dead guerrillas when it was not possible to bring their corpses in from the jungle.

‘A photograph of a Marine Commando holding two insurgents’ heads caused a public outcry in April 1952. The Colonial Office privately noted that “there is no doubt that under international law a similar case in wartime would be a war crime”. (Britain always denied it was technically at “war” in Malaya, hence use of the term “emergency”).

‘Dyak headhunters from Borneo worked alongside the British forces. High Commissioner Templer suggested that Dyaks should be used not only for tracking “but in their traditional role as head-hunters”.

‘Templer “thinks it is essential that the practice (decapitation) should continue”, although this would only be necessary “in very rare cases”, the Colonial Office observed. It also noted that, because of the recent outcry over this issue, “it would be well to delay any public statement on this matter for some months”.

‘The Daily Telegraph offered support, commenting that the Dyaks “would be superb fighters in the Malayan jungle, and it would be absurd if uninformed public opinion at home were to oppose their use”. The Colonial Office also warned that, in addition to decapitation, “other practices may have grown up, particularly in units which employ Dyaks, which would provide ugly photographs”.’
 
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