In the Malaysian General Elections of May 10, 1969, the largely Chinese opposition parties Democratic Action Party and Gerakan, both gained ground at the expense of the ruling Alliance coalition, which was led by the country's largest political party, the United Malay National Organisation. Unsavoury incidents during a victory parade organised by the Opposition in the capital Kuala Lumpur prompted the coalition to hold one of its own two days later on May 13. The mix of disgruntled voters, heightened tensions, and rumours proved volatile. Two Chinese bystanders were killed, sparking fierce communal riots which pit the Chinese against the Malays. According to official figures, the unrest claimed nearly two hundred lives. Unofficial figures are considerably higher. Using recently declassified memoranda and other documents from the Public Records Office in London, Kua Kia Soong gives a fresh account of the May 13 riots from the perspective of British and other foreign intelligence and their contacts with Malaysian officials and politicians. Journalistic dispatches, which were banned in Malaysia at the time, were also consulted. He concludes that the riots were not in fact spontaneous, but an operation carefully engineered by the emerging Malay state capitalists. Kua Kia Soong is the founder of SUARAM, a non-government organisation that defends and promotes human rights in Malaysia and elsewhere.
May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969
AuthorsKua Kia Soong