Batang Kali Massacre, 1948

On December 12, 1948, British troops of the 7th Platoon, G Company, 2nd Scots Guards approached a rubber plantation near the village of Batang Kali, not far from Kuala Lumpur, in Selangor state of what is now Malaysia.  In the quiet of the evening, people in the little town were preparing their dinners.  They had no idea that British troops were surrounding their village.

The troops suspected the villagers of being sympathetic to the communist insurgents in the Malayan Emergency, an undeclared anti-colonial war.

 They were also furious, because an insurgent attack several days earlier had left three of their soldiers dead.

First, the Scots Guards rounded up all of the villagers.  They began to question them roughly about whether they were communists or communist sympathizers.  According to eye-witness Tham Yong, one young man had a permit to gather durians in his pocket.  Unfortunately for him, it was written in Chinese characters.  The British assumed that this meant he was a communist.  They told him to run.  When he reluctantly turned to go, they shot him in the back.

The British then imprisoned the remaining villagers in a room for the night.  In the morning, they separated the 24 remaining adult men from the women and children.  As they women and children were being driven away to an internment site, they heard the sound of automatic gunfire. The Scots Guards were murdering all of the men.  Just one man, Chong Hong, survived - he passed out and was left for dead.

 The Scots Guards then set fire to all of the villagers' homes, and beheaded some of the corpses.  

Officially, the British government maintains to this day that the troops were newly arrived, inexperienced, and felt that they had to shoot the men to prevent them from running into the jungle to join the insurgents.

 However, it seems more likely that they either were ordered to wipe out the village in retaliation for the earlier loss of three soldiers, or they simply decided on their own initiative to do so.

For decades, this atrocity was hushed up even though the surviving women, children, and Chong Hong were eyewitnesses.  The British government did not even launch an investigation of the incident until the 1960s.  When news came out of the My Lai Massacre by US troops during the Vietnam War, interest in the earlier war crime at Batang Kali was revived in government halls in Britain.  However, the British public still knew next to nothing about the incident.

In response to the story of My Lai, four of the British soldiers who took part in the Batang Kali Massacre told their story to a newspaper, which published their testimony in 1970.  They confessed that they had indeed shot the village men, and that the victims were not armed at the time.  

British Defense Secretary Denis Healey then appointed a special task force from Scotland Yard to look in to the massacre.  However, Scotland Yard reported that there was too little evidence to pursue the matter, and the investigation was dropped in 1970.

Despite calls from the remaining survivors, and public confessions from some of the soldiers involved, the British government has yet to carry out a full investigation of the Batang Kali Massacre.  It seems to be waiting for everyone involved to die of old age, rather than looking in to the matter.