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The Briggs Plan And An Example Of The Plan - Kampong Simee New Village, Ipoh
This photograph reproduced from 'Chinese New Villages in Malaya' shows an early view of Kampong Simee New Village, north of Ipoh.
During the Emergency, Lieutenant-General Sir Harold Briggs, as the Director of Operations, conceived an ambitious resettlement programme, known as 'The Briggs Plan'. The purpose of this plan was to undermine Communist Min Yuen (the non-uniformed Communists who assisted the uniformed terrorists) and cut them off from the rural settlers who were the source of food, money, information and new recruits to the Communist cause.
'The Briggs Plan', deemed as the largest and most important social engineering project in South East Asia since the war, regrouped and transferred about a million Chinese rural dwellers into over 600 new settlements. In Kinta, an estimated 106,889 people were relocated into 34 New Villages from 1949 to 1052.
In these 'Resettlement Villages', all the houses were arranged in straight rows in a compact and regular layout and all cooking was communal with portions of food being handed out to each individual. Any food removed from the village required a police permit to be obtained. The villages were surrounded by perimeter fences of double-barbed wire some ten feet high and 30-45 feet apart, to prevent villagers from throwing food over the fences to the Communists. The occupants were also monitored by means of police units and members of the Home Guard with watch towers and mercury vapour lamps overseeing the brightly lit areas at night. Curfew orders issued by local police stations instructed members of the public to remain indoors between the hours of 6pm and 6am.
Thus the Communists were deprived of the food and medical supplies that they had previously obtained from the isolated smallholders and plantation workers.
This level of control of the Chinese rural population remained until the authorities believed that the area was clear of the Communist threat when it was officially designated a 'White' area.
On the subject of New Villages in general, rather than specific to Simee, Ipoh Remembered offers:
"When the “New Villages” were built in the 1950s, no thought or money was put into their design. They were concentration camps, nothing more. As a result, when eventually some of them were incorporated into the boundaries of the nearest large town, it was the town that had to pay to make sure that structures in the “New Village” came up to the health and safety standards of the town.
This is confirmed by this excerpt is from the board's Annual Report for 1954:
"The enlargement [of Ipoh in 1954 to encompass several large New Villages] brought with it many problems not the least of which was the inclusion of newly built houses […] the houses, previously outside the jurisdiction of the Town Board were erected without proper consideration of roads, drains, and sewerage and their improvement set an immediate problem for the [board]."
I don’t have figures at hand to detail what Ipoh had to spend on all its “New Villages” but it was a considerable sum.
I should note that the problem was not unique to the incorporation of "Emergency"-era New Villages. There had been "squatters" in and around Ipoh for decades, and sometimes their homes also, however precious to them, were a problem for the town — which attempted to address it viasuch "urban renewal" projects as the Waller Court flats.
In one study conducted about ten years ago, people who had come up in these New Villages were asked what it had been like, a Mr. Chen' who was "re-located" to Sempalit New Village in Pahang said:
"I was happy to know we were going to have our own farming lot from the government … I thought we could be protected by the government and kept safe from the Communists … I never thought life behind barbed wire could be like that."
Asked about his concluding “that,” he elaborated: “Like a concentration camp, lah!”
Incidentally, it was Gerald Templer who, for obvious reasons not wanting to use the term “concentration camp” or even “resettlement camp,” decided that the term “New Village” should be used. He felt it would be more appealing. As you can see, it did not fool the inmates."
Ipoh Remembered also offered the following extract frpm "Nasty not nice: British counter-insurgency doctrine and practice, 1945–1967," Small Wars and Insurgencies. (). The author is David French. It is of course, one man's view:
At the beginning of the twenty-first century the British Ministry of Defence prided itself that it was the Western world's leader in the conduct of counter-insurgency operations. Drawing on the lessons it had learnt during Britain's wars of decolonisation, it believed that it had discovered ways of waging wars among the people that enabled it to use force effectively but with discrimination, distinguishing between the ‘guilty’ few and the ‘innocent’ many. This article will survey these assertions in the light of historical evidence drawn from 10 of those campaigns: Palestine, Malaya, the Suez Canal Zone, Kenya, British Guiana, Cyprus, Oman, Nyasaland, Borneo, and Aden. It will suggest that the real foundation of British counter-insurgency doctrine and practice was not the quest to win ‘hearts and minds’. It was the application of wholesale coercion.