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The 7th Dawn (1964)

William Holden (Actor)

Susannah York (Actor)

Lewis Gilbert (Director)

Setting: Malayan (now Malaysian) Emergency (l948-1960)

The Malayan Emergency begins with the killing of several British planters by the Communist guerillas in Sungei Siput, Perak State of the then Malaya. The actual leader of the guerillas is none other than Chin Peng (see his memoirs Chin Peng: My Side of History). But in the film he is known as Ng.

This l964 movie is based on the book, THE DURIAN TREE by British writer, Michael Keon. The beginning scene with the helicopter was filmed at the Forest Research Institue of Malaysia at Kepong. The next scene was also filmed in the grounds of FRIM at Bukit Laggong. Others scenes were filmed at the placid Lake Gardens, The Railway Station and the Moorish style Clock Tower Complex in Kuala Lumpur. The beach scene was filmed at Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan state. The various jungle scenes were filmed at Ulu Gombak on the Main Mountain Range of the country. Those were lush virgin rainforest being photographed. The jail scene was made at the famous Pudu Jail where Capucine was incarcerated for the hand geranade in her durain fruit. The rubber estate and rubber tappers at work were filmed on the Kuala Lumpur trunk road to Negri Sembilan. The entire picture was made entirely in Malaysia and within 30 miles of the scenic Kuala Lumpur. But, when the film was finally made and ready to show on the screen, the conservative Malay Government of the late Tunku Abdul Rahman banned it from being seen by Malaysians who might not know the truth of their country’s Emergency which involved the guerillas (former anti-Japanese fighters)and the British colonialists. The colonialists promised independence to all Malayans after the Second World War, but broke the promise when they defeated the Jap invaders together with those heroic jungle fighters who bore the brunt of the barbaric invaders! This film is still highly sensitive today in Malaysia which is dominated by the Malay politicians. Though the hero of this story Chin Peng (Ng in the movie)and his five thousand troops had signed a peace treaty between the Malaysian and Thai government in the l980s. Yet Chin Peng and most of his freedom fighters (against the Japanese invaders) were still not allow to visit the country for purely negative political reasons.

The 7th Dawn

The 7th Dawn
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Written by Michael Keon (novel)
Karl Tunberg
Starring William Holden
Tetsuro Tamba
Susannah York
Music by Riz Ortolani
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 2 September 1964
Running time 123 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The 7th Dawn is a 1964 drama film starring William Holden, Capucine and Tetsuro Tamba. Three friends who fought the Japanese in Malaya during World War II end up on opposing sides in the Communist insurgency that follows the war. The film was based on the novel The Durian Tree by Michael Keon.


· William Holden as Major Ferris

· Capucine as Dhana

· Tetsuro Tamba as Ng

· Susannah York as Candace Trumpey

· Michael Goodliffe as Trumphey

· Allan Cuthbertson as Cavendish

· Maurice Denham as Tarlton

· Sydney Tafler as Chief Petty Officer Tom

· Beulah Quo as Ah Ming

Chin Peng

Chin Peng, former OBE[1] (Traditional Chinese:, Simplified Chinese: Mandarin Chén Píng) (born 1924), was born Ong Boon Hua (Mandarin: Wang Yonghua or Wang Wenhua Chinese.

School in Sitiawan, and was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP).

A determined anti-colonialist, he was notorious for leading the party’s guerrilla insurgency in the Malayan Emergency and beyond.


Early years

Chin Peng was born in late October, 1924, into a middle class Hokchia (hanyu pinyin: Fuqing) family in the small seaside town of Sitiawan, in Perak state, Malaya.

His father had come to the town in 1920 and started a bicycle, tyre, and spare motor parts business with the help of a relative from Singapore.[2] He attended a Chinese-language school in Sitiawan. In 1937 he joined the Chinese Anti Enemy Backing Up Society (AEBUS), formed that year to send aid to China in response to Japan‘s aggression against that country. According to Chin and Hack, he was not yet at that time a devoted Communist.[3] He was in charge of anti-Japanese activities at his school. Initially a supporter of Sun Yat-sen, by early 1939 he had embraced communism. He planned to go to Yan’an, the renowned Communist base in China, but was persuaded to remain in Malaya and take on heavier responsibilities for the Party there.

In late 1939, by which time Chin had completed his study up to Senior Middle One, his school announced that the Senior Middle section was to be closed due to lack of money. He chose to continue his education in the Methodist-run Anglo-Chinese Continuation School, which operated in English, because it provided a good cover for his underground activities and because it was local so he would not have to move to Singapore for schooling. However after six months he left the school “for fear of British harassment”. [4] Once out of school, he concentrated on his political activities, and became, from that point on, a full time revolutionary. In January 1940 he had been put in charge of three anti-Japanese organisations that had a scope beyond the schools; they were for students, teachers, other cultural members, and shop assistants. At the end of January, 1940, he was admitted to the Malayan Communist Party as a candidate member. [5]

Harassment by the authorities led him to leave his home town for Kuala Kangsar in July 1940. (This may be the same movement as his leaving school, referred to above.) Later he spent a month in Taiping. In September 1940 the party posted him to Ipoh as Standing Committee Member for Perak. In December he attained full Party membership.

In early 1941 AEBUS was dissolved. Chin Peng became Ipoh District Committee Member of the Party. “He led student underground cells of three Chinese secondary schools and the Party’s organisations of the shop assistants, domestic servants of European families, workers at brick kilns and barbers.” [5] In June 1941 he became a member of the Perak State Committee.

Rise to prominence

Chin Peng rose to prominence during World War II when many Chinese Malayans took to the jungle to fight a guerrilla war against the Japanese. These fighters, inspired by the example of the Communist Party of China, became known as the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). Chin Peng became the liaison officer between the MPAJA and the British military in South-East Asia.

The Japanese invasion of Malaya began in December 1941. In 1942 Chin was the junior of three members of the Secretariat of the Perak State Committee: Su Yew Meng was secretary, and Chang Meng Ching (hanyan pinyin: Zhang Ming Jin) was the other member. In early 1943 the two senior members were captured by the Japanese, which left Chin Peng in charge. Contact with the Party’s Central Committee had been lost; he attempted to re-establish it, travelling to Kuala Lumpur and meeting Chai Ker Meng. Later Lai Tek, the Party leader, sent another Central Committee member, Lee Siow Peng (Siao Ping), to replace Chin as State Secretary. However, Lee Siow Peng was captured not long after, while travelling to a meeting that was to be held in Singapore. It was thus that the job of establishing contact with the British commando Force 136 fell to Chin Peng. The first party of that force, consisting of Capt. John Davis and five Chinese agents, had been landed in Malaya on 24 May 1943, by submarine. Chin Peng made contact with this armed group on 30 September 1943. He was active in his support for the British stay-behind troops, but had no illusions about their failure to protect Malaya against the Japanese. In the course of this activity, he came into contact with Freddie Spencer Chapman, who called him a ‘true friend’ in his Malayan jungle memoir, ‘The Jungle Is Neutral’.

In the course of the war, Chin was awarded an OBE (subsequently withdrawn by the British government), a mention in despatches, and two campaign medals by Britain. He was elected the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Malaya after the betrayal of previous leader Lai Tek who turned out to be an agent for both the British and the Japanese and had denounced the leadership of the Party to the Japanese secret police. Chin Peng was the most senior surviving member.

The Emergency

Public Enemy No.1

The Malayan colonial administration declared a state of emergency on 16 June 1948 after members of the Communist Party of Malaya killed three European plantation managers at Sungei Siput. The CPM was banned in July. Many Singaporean historians and anti-communists allege that Chin Peng ordered the killings. Chin Peng claims he had no prior knowledge. In fact, he says he was so unprepared for the start of hostility that he barely escaped arrest, losing his passport in the process, and lost touch with the party for a couple of days.[6]

The resulting civil war became known as the Malayan Emergency which lasted for twelve years until 1960.

Chin Peng withdrew to southern Thailand with the remnants of his forces during the latter part of the Emergency as a result of security force pressure and at the end of 1960 moved to Beijing, which became his base for many years. In 1960 he wished to give up the armed struggle, but was told by Deng Xiaoping that South-East Asia was ripe for Revolution. The CPM maintained a theoretical armed struggle for decades after.

The death toll climbed into the thousands. Those sympathetic to Chin Peng tend to portray the violence perpetrated by the CPM as defensive, while right-wing opponents tend to portray it as aggressive and unethical. Some have claimed the large number of civilian casualties was in contrast to the stance adopted by Mao Zedong and his policy of the Eight Points of Attention.

In 1970 the CPM’s guerilla bases in Thailand were convulsed by the trials and executions of supposed spies. Two breakaway factions were formed which condemned the purge. Chin Peng, who was then based in China, has denied involvement and later rehabilitated his accused comrades.[7]

The CPM laid down its arms in 1989. On December 2nd of that year, at the town of Had Yai in Southern Thailand, Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin, and Abdullah CD met with representatives of the Malaysian and Thailand governments. Separate peace agreements were signed between the MCP and both governments. One of the terms of the agreement was that MCP members of Malayan origin be allowed to return to live in Malaysia.

Application to return to Malaysia

At the beginning of 2000, Chin Peng applied to be permitted to enter Malaysia. This was rejected by the High Court on July 25, 2005.

His return is opposed by victims of attacks committed by the Communist Party of Malaya, those who served in the armed forces during the Emergency, and members of the public. There has been a resurgence of accounts of the alleged atrocities the Communist Party of Malaya committed in newspapers by those who oppose his return (such as the Ex-Servicemen’s Association of Malaysia).

Chin Peng has lived in exile in southern Thailand and has also given lectures in the National University of Singapore.

The former Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Badawi, suggested the Government might reconsider its position in the future. He said he would wait for the outcome of the Court case before making a decision.

In June 2008, Chin Peng again lost his bid to return to Malaysia when the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling that compelled him to show identification papers to prove his citizenship. Chin Peng maintained that his birth certificate was seized by the police during a raid in 1948. His counsel, Raja Aziz Addruse, had submitted before the Court of Appeal that it was wrong for the Malaysia government to compel him to produce the documents because he was entitled to enter and live in Malaysia by virtue of the agreement.

His attempts to return to Malaysia received support by Pulau Pinang Gerakan Chaiman, Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan. Chin Peng has never expressed regret overseeing Communist Party of Malaya in their war against Malaysian government, in fact, is proud of it as written in his book, “Every generation shapes its dreams. But you pay for your dreams. We certainly paid for ours. I do not regret having fought for what I considered – and still consider a just cause.” (Chin Peng, 2003:9)

Anwar Ibrahim who is PKR adviser has voiced support to allow Chin Peng to return to Malaysia.[8] His remark has been slammed by UMNO leaders who view it as “regrettable” [9] or even a plot to gain support of the Chinese community.[10]

Media portrayal

In 2006, a documentary film about Chin Peng was made called The Last Communist. It was banned by Malaysia‘s Home Affairs Ministry.


· October 22, 1924: Birth.

· January 1940: Accepted as probationary member of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM); put in charge of Communist members in Sitiawan.

· July 4, 1940: Leaves home.

· December 1941: Communists’ offer of help accepted; joins the fight against the Japanese.

· January 10, 1942: The first batch of the Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).

· 1942: Meets future wife, Khoon Wah.

· 1945: World War II ends.

· January 1946: Awarded 2 war medals; boycotts tour of British bases; forced to sign letter of apology.

· Mid-October 1946: In Penang, Yeung Kuo reveals that Lai Teck has betrayed the CPM; Lai Teck subsequently absconds with most of party’s money.

· March 6, 1947: MCP Central Executive Committee meeting held to deal with Lai Teck controversy; Lai Teck fails to appear and is never seen by MCP again. Later, Chin Peng is elected secretary-general of MCP.

· 1948: Three planters killed at Sungei Siput; Emergency declared; MCP declared illegal.

· Late 1950: Briggs arrives in Malaya and implements “Brigg’s plan” – resettling people into “New Villages”. If the people refused to move, the British would forcibly remove them and sometimes burn down their houses. This made it difficult for the Communists to gain food supplies from the “Min Yuen”, their supporters in the villages.

· October 6, 1951: Sir Henry Gurney, British High Commissioner in Malaya, is assassinated on Gap road to Fraser’s Hill by Siew Ma. It was a “chance” ambush by Siew Ma and his party and not a plan to assassinate Gurney.

· February 7, 1952: Sir Gerald Templer, arrives to take the place of Gurney, and implements harsh measures against the Communists.

· December 28, 1955: Baling Talks held with David Marshall and Tunku Abdul Rahman, unsuccessful because of surrender terms. After the Baling Talks, Chin Peng retires to Thailand. Ah Hai replaces him as acting Secretary-General in Malaya.

· 1960: The Emergency is officially declared at an end. However, fighting still continues. Special Malaysian government troops going by the name “Senoi Praaq” prove to be a thorn in Chin Peng’s side.

· December 2, 1989: A peace treaty is signed between the communists, Thailand and Malaysia. The long, hard war the British had preferred to term an Emergency was over.

· October 6-8, 2004: Chin Peng visits Singapore for 3 days to speak at the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (ISEAS).

· 2005: Chin Peng is pending to return to Malaysia. His hearing was scheduled for May 25, 2005, and the High Court postponed it to July 25, 2005. This application was subsequently rejected.

· June 2008: Chin Peng’s lost his bid to return to Malaysia when the Court of Appeal demanded he showed identification papers to prove his Malayan citizenship.

Reference Books

· Chin, C. C., and Karl Hack. eds., Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party. (2004) Singapore: Singapore University Press, 2004 ISBN 9971692872


1. Dead or Alive, TIME Magazine, May 12, 1952

2. C.C. Chin and Karl Hack, Dialogues with Chin Peng, pp. 3, 38.

3. Chin and Hack, p. 40.

4. Chin and Hack, p. 39.

5. a b Chin and Hack, p. 41.

6. Chin Peng, My Side of History, pp 215-222.

7. Chin Peng, My Side of History, pp 466-469,499.

8. Let Chin Peng return says Anwar – MySinchew 2009.06.13

9. Anwar’s stand on Chin Peng regrettable, says Hisham

10. ‘Defending Chin Peng is Anwar’s ploy’


· Chin Peng, My Side of History (2003) ISBN 981-04-8693-6

· Ruslan of Malaysia: The Man Behind the Domino That Didn’t Fall (2007) ISBN 978-0-9780562-0-9


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