KUALA LUMPUR: The last Malaysian adult witness to the massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by British troops in 1948 has died, leaving the campaign for an official investigation uncertain, activists said today.
Tham Yong, 78, who died on Friday, saw 14 Scots Guards kill the villagers which is known as the “Batang Kali massacre” on December 12, 1948, victim families’ representative Quek Ngee Meng told. “With Tham Yong’s passing we have lost the final adult witness to what happened in Batang Kali,” he said.
Last August, British government lawyers indicated a provisional decision to reject any investigation after a decades-long campaign for an official probe. “Tham Yong was the main appellant so her death leaves the campaign in uncertainty but the next living witness who was eight when he witnessed the event, is keen to proceed so we will continue to seek justice,” Quek added. He said the group’s lawyers would be making further representations to the British government later this month.
British colonial authorities said at the time of the incident — at the beginning of a 12-year communist insurgency in the former Malaya — that the men were shot because they were suspected guerrillas fleeing the scene.
The then Malayan attorney general vindicated the troops and the massacre was largely forgotten
until 1970 when a British newspaper ran an explosive account of the killings,
publishing sworn affidavits by soldiers who admitted the villagers were shot
in cold blood.
The revelations triggered uproar in Britain but a promised investigation was later dropped after a change in government.
In an interview with
AFP in 2008, Tham Yong, a former rubber tapper,
recalled “the day the British killed men”.