Friday, 27 September 2013

Massacre in Malaya - Exposing Britains My Lai?

I have just pre-ordered this book.  To me the title appears 'sensationalist', although the publisher can't be blamed for trying to sell their book.

The My Lai massacre took place in several hamlets of Son My village in in Vietnam where American forces (1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment) indiscriminately massacred between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians.  Victims included women, men, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated.  By contrast in the Batang Kali massacre 24 unarmed male villagers were killed (executed?) by elements of the Scots Guards, after they had been separated from their women and children and interrogated.  Comparable? 

In both massacres the troops involved believed that the villagers were aiding their enemy.  The killing of unarmed civilians by soldiers is never acceptable unless, in the heat of war, a genuine mistake is made.

Because all war is cruel, vicious and often dirty - and mistakes are made.   My own experience of fighting terrorists was closer to home, and yet the same rules seem to have applied:  the terrorists committed atrocity after atrocity, and murder after murder, yet if the security forces ever (and often under extreme provocation) deviated from the official rules, they were immediately castigated and severely held to account.  We called it the 'limp wrist of democracy' - The terrorists ignored the rules of society (and war) when fighting us, yet hid behind the same rules when they were caught - yet the security forces always had to play by the rules. 

It is easy to sensationalise a headline to appeal to popular sentiment, but such sensationalism should not over-shadow the key fact: The war in Malaya was a huge success, and stamped out virulent communism to allow a new democratic nation to be born.  It wasn't just fought by Britain (and her Commonwealth allies), but also by the Federation of Malaya.  After 31st August 1957 it was fought on behalf of the new Malayan government.

It is clear that the campaign was fought ruthlessly by both sides, yet the insurgents were vicious, cruel, and terrorised and exploited the civilian population.  From the other side, forced resettlement was harsh, that fact is inescapable.  However in Malaya the forced resettlement of people from squatter camps on the jungle fringes (where those that did not wish to support the Communists could be easily intimidated by them) into new villages (where they were protected from the Communists), gave many of them property rights, security of tenure, and access to basic and essential amenities (such as fixed medical facilities and schools) for the first time.  Does Batang Kali really equate with the horrors of My Lai?  I'll read the new book with great interest and an open mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment