Military Wiki
Sarawak Communist Insurgency
Part of Cold War
Datec. December 1962-3 November 1990[5][2]
LocationSarawak, Malaysia[5]
Status Resolved[2]

United Kingdom United Kingdom[1]

Malaysia Federation of Malaysia[2]
Indonesia Indonesia (after 1965)[2]
  • North Kalimantan Communist Party[3]
    • Sarawak People's Guerilla Force (SPFG)[4]
    • North Kalimantan People's Army (NKPA)[4]
  • Indonesia Indonesia (1962–65)[2]
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Walter Walker (1962-1965)
Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman
Malaysia Tun Abdul Razak
Malaysia Tun Hussein Onn
Malaysia Tun Mahathir Mohamad
Malaysia Stephen Kalong Ningkan (1963-1966)
Malaysia Tawi Sli (1966-1970)
Malaysia Abdul Rahman Ya'kub (1970-1981)
Malaysia Abdul Taib Mahmud (1981-1990)
Bong Kee Chok[4]
Yang Chu Chung[4]
Wen Ming Chyuan[4]
Yap Choon Hau[4]
Lam Wah Kwai[4]
Bong Kee Chok[4]
Ang Chu Ting[4]
Wong Lieng Kui[4]
Cheung Ah Wah[4]

The Sarawak Communist Insurgency occurred in Malaysia from 1962 to 1990, and involved the North Kalimantan Communist Party and the Malaysian Government. It was one of the two Communist insurgencies to challenge the former British colony of Malaysia during the Cold War. As with the earlier Malayan Emergency (1948–1960), the Sarawak Communist insurgents were predominantly ethnic Chinese, who opposed to British rule over Sarawak and later opposed the merger of the state into the newly created Federation of Malaysia.[5] The Sarawak Communist Insurgency was triggered by the 1962 Brunei Revolt, which had been instigated by the left-wing Brunei People's Party in opposition to the proposed formation of Malaysia.[1]

The Sarawak Communist insurgents were also supported by Indonesia until 1965 when the pro-Western President Suharto assumed power and ended the confrontation with Malaysia. During that period, the NKCP's two main military formations were created: the Sarawak People's Guerilla Force (SPGF) or Pasukan Gerilya Rakyat Sarawak (PGRS), and the North Kalimantan People's Army (NKPA) or the Pasukan Rakyat Kalimantan Utara (PARAKU).[4] Following the end of the Confrontation, Malaysian and Indonesian military forces would cooperate with the Malaysians in counter-insurgency operations against their former allies.[2][1]

The North Kalimantan Communist Party was formally established in March 1970 through the merger of several Communist and left-wing groups in Sarawak including the Sarawak Liberation League (SLL), the Sarawak Advanced Youths' Association (SAYA), and the NKPA.[4] In response to the Sarawak Communist Insurgency, the Malaysian federal government created several "controlled areas" along the Kuching-Serian road in Sarawak's First and Third Divisions in 1965. In addition, the Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Rahman Ya'kub also managed to convince many of the NKCP insurgents to enter into peace negotiations and lay down their arms between 1973 and 1974. Following the successful peace talks between the Malaysian government and the Malayan Communist Party in 1989, the remaining NKCP insurgents signed a peace agreement on October 17, 1990 which formally ended the insurgency.[5][4]



Besides the main Communist insurgency in Peninsular Malaysia, another one occurred in Sarawak, one of Malaysia's Borneo states.[6] As with their MCP counterparts, the Sarawak Communist Organization (SCO) or the Communist Clandestine Organization (CCO), was predominantly dominated by ethnic Chinese but also included Dayak supporters.[5] However, the Sarawak Communist Organization had little support from ethnic Malays and the indigenous Sarawak races. At its height, the SCO had 24,000 members.[7] During the 1940s, Maoism had spread among Chinese vernacular schools in Sarawak. Following the Second World War, Communist influence also penetrated the labour movement and the predominantly-Chinese Sarawak United People's Party, the state's first political party which was founded in June 1959. The Sarawak Insurgency began after the Brunei Revolt in 1962 and SCO guerillas would fight alongside the Bruneian rebels and Indonesian forces during the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation (1963–1966).[5]

The Indonesian connection

Following the Brunei Revolt in 1962, the British authorities in British Borneo, in cooperation with the Malaysian Special Branch, launched a crackdown of suspected Communists in Sarawak which prompted 700-800 Chinese youths[2] to flee to Indonesian Kalimantan. There, these Communists received military-style training at Indonesian camps.[1] At that time, President Sukarno was pro-Communist and anti-Western. As with Sukarno and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), the Sarawak Communists opposed the newly formed Federation of Malaysia as a "neo-colonialist conspiracy" and supported the unification of all former British territories in Borneo to create an independent leftist North Kalimantan state.[2] According to the former British soldier and writer Will Fowler, the so-called "Clandestine Communist Organization" had plans to launch attacks on police stations and to ambush security forces, paralleling similar tactics used by the Malayan National Liberation Army during the Malayan Emergency.[1]

These Communist exiles in Indonesia would form the core of the North Kalimantan Communist Party's two guerrilla formations: the Sarawak People's Guerillas (SPGF) and the North Kalimantan People's Army (PARAKU). The Sarawak People's Guerilla Force was formed on March 30, 1964 at Gunung Asuansang in West Kalimantan with the assistance of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The SPGF's leaders included Bong Kee Chok, Yang Chu Chung, and Wen Ming Chyuan.[4] According to Conboy, the PGRS numbered about 800 and was based in West Kalimantan at Batu Hitam, with a contingent of 120 from the Indonesian intelligence agency and a small cadre trained in China. The Indonesian Communist Party was also present and was led by an ethnic Arab revolutionary, Sofyan. The PGRS ran some raids into Sarawak but spent more time developing their supporters in Sarawak. The Indonesian armed forces did not approve of the leftist nature of the PGRS and generally avoided them.[8]

Meanwhile, the North Kalimantan People's Army was formed by Bong Kee Chok near Sungai Melawi in West Kalimantan with the assistance of the PKI on October 26, 1965. While the SPGF under its commander Yang operated in western Sarawak, the NKPA operated in eastern Sarawak. The NKPA was initially commanded by Lam Wah Kwai, who was succeeded by Bong Kee Chok.[4] According to Kenneth Conboy, Soebandrio met with a group of Sarawak Communist leaders in Bogor, and Nasution sent three trainers from Resimen Para Komando Angkatan Darat (RPKAD) Battalion 2 to Nangabadan near the Sarawak border, where there were about 300 trainees. Some three months later, two lieutenants were also sent there.[9]

The Indonesians had planned to used the Sarawak Communists as an indigenous front for their operations during the Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation. To support this ruse, they even named the organization the North Kalimantan National Army (TNKU), to link the SCO to the original Bruneian rebels. While the first raids included SCO members, they were often led by regular Indonesian officers or Non-commissioned officers from the Marine commandos (Korps Komando Operasi, KKO), the Army para-commandos (Regimen Para Kommando Angaton Darat, RPKAD), and the Air Force paratroopers ( Pasukan Gerak Tjepat, PGT).[1] Following an attempted coup by pro-PKI elements in the Indonesian military in 1965, General Suharto assumed power and launched a purge of Communist elements. Overnight, the Sarawak Communists lost a safe haven and the Indonesian military would subsequently cooperate with the Malaysians in counter-insurgency operations against their former allies.[2][1]

The Insurgency

Between 1965–90, there were skirmishes between the Sarawak Communists and the Malaysian armed forces. In response to the Communist insurgency, the Malaysian federal government created several "controlled areas" along the Kuching-Serian road in Sarawak's First and Third Divisions in 1965.[2] These settlements were protected by barbed wire and modelled after the successful New Villages used earlier during the Malayan Emergency. As with the Briggs Plan, the "controlled areas" succeeded in denying the SCO access to food supplies and material from their Chinese and Dayak supporters.[5] Following the 13 May Incident in 1969, all Communist elements were expelled from the SUPP and moderate elements gained control over the party. The SUPP then entered into a coalition with the ruling Bumiputera Party in the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly.[2]

On 30 March 1970, Wen Ming Chyuan, the Head of the Sarawak People's Guerrillas in Sarawak's First Division, formed the North Kalimantan Communist Party.[5][10] However, 19 September 1971 was chosen as the official date of the formation of the party to coincide with the Pontianak Conference, which had been held on 17–19 September 1965. While the Pontianak Conference was regarded as the foundation of the Sarawak Communist Movement, none of the conference attendees were Communist. Instead, they consisted of members of the left-wing Liberation League and the "O Members" of the Advanced Youths Association. While they had discussed creating a Communist party in Sarawak, they delayed doing so until 1971 due to the tense political situation in Indonesia.[10]

Defections and Decline

The Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Rahman Ya'kub also made several overtures to the NKCP insurgents and managed to convince several of the insurgents to lay down their arms.[5] In 1973–74, the Malaysian government scored a key victory when Rahman Ya'kub successfully convinced one of the NKCP leaders Bong Kee Chok to surrender along with 481 of his supporters. This was a heavy loss for the NKCP since this number comprised approximately 75 per cent of the NKCP's entire force in Sarawak.[5] After this defection, only 121 guerilla fighters led by Hung Chu Ting and Wong Lian Kui remained. By 1974, the Communist insurgency had become confined to the Rejang Delta. Both sides sustained casualties and many civilians were also killed and wounded in the cross-fire.[2]

Following the successful Hat Yai peace accords between the MCP and the Malaysian government in 1989, the remaining NKCP guerillas decided to end their insurgency after one of their Chinese contacts Weng Min Chyuan convinced them to negotiate with the Sarawak state government. In July 1990, a series of negotiations between the NKCP and the Sarawak government took place at the town of Bintulu. By 17 October 1990, a peace agreement formally ending the Sarawak communist insurgency was ratified at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in the state capital Kuching. Shortly afterwards, the last remaining NKCP operatives led by Ang Cho Teng surrendered. These developments ended the Sarawak Communist insurgency.[5][2]

See also

Primary sources

Secondary Sources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Fowler, Will (2006). Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962-66. London: Osprey Publishing. pp. 11, 41. ISBN 1-84603-048-X. 
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Chan, Francis; Wong, Phyllis (16 September 2011). "Saga of communist insurgency in Sarawak". Borneo Post. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  3. Cheah Boon Kheng, p.149
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 Hara, Fujiol (December 2005). "The North Kalimantan Communist Party and the People's Republic of China". pp. 489–513. Retrieved 25 December 2013. 
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Cheah Boon Kheng (2009). "The Communist Insurgency in Malaysia, 1948–90: Contesting the Nation-State and Social Change". University of Auckland. pp. 132–52. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  6. National Intelligence Estimate 54–1–76: The Outlook for Malaysia (Report). Central Intelligence Agency. April 1, 1976. 
  7. Robin Corbett, 124
  8. Conboy p. 156
  9. Conboy p. 93-95
  10. 10.0 10.1 Fong, Hong-Kah (2005). "Book Review: Vernon L. Porritt "The Rise and Fall of Communism in Sarawak 1940-1990"". pp. 183–192. Retrieved 31 August 2013. 

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