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The aftermath of the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation at Long Bawan

Located at North Kalimantan, Indonesia, Long Bawan is a small town with a small airport which has become the only gateway via air to Krayan Highlands.

Looking back on its history, it was one of the combat operations sites between British Commonwealth forces and Indonesian armies during the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation.

The confrontation which started in early 1963 was caused by Indonesia’s opposition to the creation of Malaysia.

By December 1964, there was a build-up of Indonesian forces on the Kalimantan border. This caused the British government to commit significant forces from the UK-based Army Strategic Command and Australia and New Zealand to Borneo in 1965-66.

On the Indonesian side, the fight was led by Indonesian Army special forces (Resimen Para Komando Angkatan Darat or RPKAD).

Additionally, they recruited the North Kalimantan National Army or Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara (TNKU).

During the confrontation, hundreds of Indonesian civilians had been loosely trained as part of TNKU.

Most of them were unemployed urban youth scrounged from cities in Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

Since the battles mostly happened at the Indonesian-Malaysian border in Kalimantan, some of them were posted in Long Bawan (Indonesia).

Long Bawan 7
A view of Long Bawan paddy field. Perhaps this was where parachuters landed in 1968.
TNKU members who were left at Long Bawan

Although the confrontation had been officially declared over in August 1966, the mission was technically not over for Indonesian forces.

There were TNKU members abandoned and left behind at their border camps including in Long Bawan.

To make matter worse, the Indonesian government reportedly did not bother to disarm the army-volunteers, leaving them with weapons such as heavy machine guns and mortars.

Kenneth J. Conboy wrote in Kopasses: Inside Indonesia’s Special Forces that the ready supply of weapons and unemployed volunteers became a volatile combination.

Conboy wrote, “By late 1967, Jakarta had received reports that the former TNKU partisans were stealing food and raping women in the Long Bawan vicinity. Colonel Mung, the former RPKAD commander now serving as head of the military region, reported that the outgunned local government was screaming for help.”

Jakarta was reportedly in a fix when the government heard this news. In response, they sent out two groups from RPKAD which was led by Captain Alex Setiabudi and Captain Kentot Harseno.

Both captains had previously served at Long Bawan.

Long Bawan 6
The small township of Long Bawan.

The two groups assembled at Cijantung during the first week of January 1968. Since there were no suitable runways, the units would be making a combat jump into paddies a half-hour trek east of Long Bawan.

“Although they would be parachuting with their weapons- including two rocket launchers – they were correctly concerned about opposition they might face. The ex-volunteers, after all, were better armed and knew the lay of the land after living there for almost four years,” Conboy wrote.

RPKAD came bearing gifts

Then Captain Kentot had an idea. Instead of going in with full force, they decided to go with gifts like food, writing pads and clothes.

His idea was adopted in and operation code-named Operation Linud X (“Airborne X”). On Jan 10, 1968, the groups made their jumps after light into Long Bawan.

The military units had expected to face difficulties from the former TNKU volunteers. However, it was the terrains of Krayan Highlands that gave them a hard time. Several of the commandos landed, drifting far from their marks, mostly in paddy fields and swamp.

Meanwhile, Captain Kentot landed in mud up to his armpits and nearly drowned. One of the pallets carrying a rocket launcher was even lost during the jump.

Nonetheless, the commandos managed to regroup at Long Bawan village where its chief greeted them like old friends.

After finding out their mission, the chief tasked some of his villagers to collect all weapons from nearby cache sites.

Surprisingly, the abandoned TNKU members were extremely tame. They took the gifts kindly and offered up their weapons without any resistance.

Four months later, all of the commandos were packing to leave. Due to some difficulties with their transport, they were forced to hike to the nearest river landing. According to Conboy, they were back on Java by June after a speedboat shuttle toward the coast.

“For once, what had the potential for being another festering security challenge had been resolved without firing a shot,” Conboy recorded.

Long Bawan 4
The new building at Yuvai Semaring airport in construction.
The physical remnants of the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation at Long Bawan

While confrontation now only remained in memories for the Krayan Highlands elders (which they refer to as ‘konfrontasi’), there are some physical remnants left behind at Long Bawan.

This small town was also the crash site of an Indonesian plane during Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation.

On Sept 26, 1965 during the confrontation, a C-130 plane was shot down near Long Bawan.

Ironically, the plane was shot down by Indonesian anti-craft fire, as it was mistaken for a Commonwealth aircraft.

It was carrying an RPKAD platoon from Java on orders to “neutralise” a gun position on the border ridge.

After the aircraft was hit, the RPKAD members parachuted out before it caught fire and crashed.

The wreckage of the plane is still at Long Bawan to this day.

Meanwhile, the locals also found the rocket launcher that was lost when Captain Kentot and his units parachuted in 1968.

It is now on display at Krayan’s Kepolisian Sektor or Polsek (Police District office).

Long Bawan 3
Photocopying services at Long Bawan.

The rise and fall of Bulungan sultanate, a Muslim kingdom with Kayan roots

Today, the Kayan people of Borneo are known to practice mainly Christianity. Most of them have left their traditional belief called bungan and shamanism.

However, did you know that hundreds of years ago, a Muslim sultanate called the Bulungan sultanate was allegedly founded by a Kayan princess from Apau Kayan who had married a Bruneian?

Centuries ago, a great number of Kayans moved to east Borneo. There, they began the ethnogenesis of the Bulungan people when they converted to Islam.

The sultanate is located in the existing Bulungan Regency in the North Kalimantan province of Indonesia.

The center of the sultanate is today’s Tanjung Selor town which is the capital of both the North Kalimantan province and Bulungan regency.

During the peak of its reign, the sultanate territory spanned the eastern shores of North Kalimantan up to Tawau, now Malaysian Borneo.

The history of Bulungan sultanate

According to Bernard Sellato in his paper Forest, Resources and People in Bulungan, the history of the kingdom started from a group of Kayans who settled near the coast.

He stated, “This Dayak group, the Kayan Uma’ Apan, moved from Apo Kayan in the 17th century down the Kayan river, settled near Long Peleban (middle Kayan river), and then moved farther downstream to the Binai river, near the coast.

“There, a Kayan princess, marrying a visiting nobleman, Lancang, allegedly from Brunei (c.1650), started a dynasty of Indianised kings, which later was centered near Tanjung Selor. A century later (c.1750), this dynasty converted to Islam, and a long line of sultans, vassals to the sultan of Berau (himself a vassal to Kutai), followed until the 1850s, when the Dutch began interfering in local affairs, trying to eradicate piracy and the slave trade.”

Another account of the founding of Bulungan kingdom stated that it was founded by Kuwanyi, a Kayan aristocrat from Uma Apan of Usun Apau.

He was known for his leadership and bravery. Kuwanyi had a daughter named Asung Lawan. She then married a Brunei prince named Datu Mencang. It was under the reign of Asung Lawan and Datu Mencang, the kingdom became a Muslim sultanate.

Meanwhile, another origin story behind the Bulungan sultanate is more on the fantasy side.

Long time ago, there was a childless Kayan leader who found an egg and a bamboo.

He brought both home and the the egg and bamboo turned into a baby girl and and a baby boy respectively.

According to this legend, the boy and girl later founded the Bulungan kingdom.

Either way, it is widely understood that Bulungan sultanate is rooted from the Kayan people.

Kayan river
Kayan river in North Kalimantan.

A Norwegian’s visit to Sultanate of Bulungan

Carl Sofus Lumholtz (1851-1922) was a Norwegian explorer and ethnographer.

In 1913, he started an expedition to explore Dutch Central Borneo to learn about the culture in the area.

One of the few accounts about Sultan of Bulungan back then can be found in Lumholtz’s book, Through Central Borneo; an account of two years’ travel in the land of the headhunters between the years 1913 and 1917 (1920).

He wrote:

“Two days later, among mighty forests of nipa-palms, we sailed up the Kayan or Bulungan river and arrived at Tandjong Selor, a small town populated by Malays and Chinese, the number of Europeans being usually limited to two, the controleur and the custom house manager. It lies in a flat swampy country and on the opposite side of the river, which here is 600 metres wide, lives the Sultan of Bulungan.

I secured a large room in a house which had just been rented by two Japanese who were representatives of a lumber company, and had come to arrange for the export of hardwood from this part of Borneo.

Accompanied by the controleur, Mr. R. Schreuder, I went to call on the Sultan. He was a man of about thirty-five years, rather prepossessing in appearance, and proud of his ancestry, although time has so effaced his Dayak characteristic that he looks like a Malay. Dato Mansur, his executive, met us at the landing and escorted us into the presence of the Sultan and his wife, where were offered soda water and whiskey, and we were remained an hour. They are both likeable, but the Sultan appears rather nervous and frail, and it is rumoured that his health has suffered as a result of overindulgence in spiritualistic seances.

He gave an entertaining account of natives living in the trees on the Malinau river. As it had been impossible for me to obtain cartridges for my Winchester rifle, the Sultan was kind enough to lend me one of his before we parted, as well as two hundred cartridges.”

Lumholtz’s visit to the Sultanate of Bulungan took place sometimes in December 1913.

Sultanate of Bulungan under Dutch colonisation

The Dutch signed with the Sultan of Bulungan a Politiek Contract to impose their sovereignty over the kingdom in 1850.

By 1893, there was a Dutch government post set up in Tanjung Selor.

Under the Dutch control, the sultan was forced to hand over control of the remoter regions of the Bahau river, Pujungan river, and Apo Kayan.

Then in 1881, the British North Borneo Chartered Company (BNBC) was formed, placing North Borneo (present-day Sabah) under British jurisdiction.

Tawau, which was previously reigned over by Sultan of Bulungan, was claimed by BNBC.

After long negotiation with the British, the Dutch finally recognised the British borders in 1915 which is basically the border between Sabah and North Kalimantan now.

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Groepsportret met Maulana Mohamad Djalaloeddin Sultan van Boeloengan op zijn troon TMnr 60041528
The rulling class of the Bulungan Sultanate (taken c. 1925-1935). Credit: Creative Common

Bulungan sultanate during Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation

Ultimately, the connection between the kingdom and Malaysia played a role in the fall of Bulungan.

After World War II had ended and many countries were freed from Japanese occupation, Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch.

Unlike many sultanates in Borneo which were abolished after independence partly due to many sultans and their families being executed by the Japanese, the Sultanate of Bulungan retained its power.

Then Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation took place in 1963 because Indonesia opposed the creation of Malaysia.

During this time, the Sultanate of Bulungan was accused of being supportive toward Malaysia.

In April 1964, it was reported that a document was found proving the ties between Bulungan aristocracy and Malaysia.

It stated that the Bulungan royal family would proclaim a merger with Sabah and subsequently Malaysia.

Furthermore, the aristocrats were seen to be visiting Sabah frequently. However, many believed the visits were just because they had relatives in Tawau.

In the same month, the Indonesian army allegedly found arms in the former palace of the sultan. By now, they strongly believed that sultan and his followers would take part in the Confrontation but would lean on the Malaysian side.

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM De sultan van Bulungan en zijn echtgenote Borneo TMnr 10001599
Abdul Jalil of Bulungan with the Queen consort (1940). Credit: Creative Common

The massacre of Bulungan royal family

Later, an order came out to arrest all members of the Bulungan royal family.

When the army arrived at the Bulungan palace on July 2, 1964, they came under the pretense of just an ordinary official visit.

Naturally, the royal family provided a feast for the army that night to welcome their visit. The Sultan had no idea what the army had planned.

In the dawn of July 3 while the family and their servants were sleeping, the army surrounded the palace.

They then proceeded to capture everyone in the palace including the sultan.

Burhan Djabler Magenda in his book East Kalimantan: The Decline of a commercial Aristocracy narrated the fate of this aristocracy.

“The aristocrats were separated into several groups. All the male members were put into one group and into one boat, while the women and children were placed in a separate boat. They were supposed to be transported first to Tarakan and from there taken to Balikpapan. This plan never materialised,” he wrote.

Instead, off the shore of Tarakan, all about 30 of them in total were gunned down by their own guards.

There, their bodies were thrown into the sea. The soldiers also burned the palace to the ground and the fire lasted for two days and two nights.

Amal Beach Tarakan 2
Amal Beach of Tarakan

The end of the Sultanate of Bulungan

While there were many different accounts about the massacre, one thing for sure was that many members of the Bulungan royal family were executed in July 1964.

Among the immediate family of Sultan Bulungan, one son was in school in Malang during the incident.

However, he was later arrested in Balikpapan and was never heard of again.

Another two sons were able to survive because they managed to escape in time. They fled to Tawau and became Malaysian nationals.

In 2017, the descendants of the Sultan revealed to an Indonesian newspaper their intentions to return to their homeland by giving up their Malaysian nationalities and become Indonesian.

As dead men cannot speak, there was no definite proof that the Bulungan royal family was supportive of Malaysia to this day which cost their lives.

Even if they were, many agreed that killing the whole family including women and children was an extreme move by the army.

Regardless, the massacre of Bulungan royal family marked the end of the sultanate.

Mangkok Merah 1967, the Dayak-Chinese conflict in Kalimantan

Mangkok Merah 1967, the conflict between the Dayak and Chinese in West Kalimantan

Chinese and Indonesians stand together Impressions of the Fight ... in Indonesia p11
Slogan proclaiming that Chinese and Indonesians stand together. Circa 1946. Credit: Berita Film Indonesia / Public domain

The New Order in Indonesia is the term coined by the second Indonesian President Suharto to describe his administrative era when he came to power in 1966.

In the beginning of this New Order, one incident left a bloody mark in Indonesian history and it is called Mangkuk Merah.

The background factors of the conflict between the Dayak and Chinese

Suharto’s predecessor Sukarno denounced the new nation Malaysia back then, calling it a form of neo-colonialism.

He then secretly trained rebel communist troops from Sarawak known as the Sarawak People’s Guerrilla Army (Pasukan Guerrilla Rakyat Sarawak or PGRS).

They set up camps along the Kalimantan-Sarawak border with many Sarawakian Chinese crossing over to be part of the communist movement.

When Suharto rose to power, he ended the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation and focused on fighting against communism.

By January 1967, the Indonesian military began to resettle 5,000 Chinese away from the Sarawak border.

The Chinese were no longer allowed to live within five miles of the border.

At that time, the Chinese, especially from West Kalimantan, were believed to be communist sympathisers. The military also believed that a number of them living near the border were from Sarawak not Kalimantan.

In Sarawak, a similar resettlement scheme was carried out in 1965 called Operation Hammer. The Chinese were resettled away from the Sarawak border in order to cut off the Communist rebels’ food and supplies.

The rumours that sparked the conflict between the Dayak and Chinese

In the book Malay and Chinese Indonesian, Dwi Surya Atmaja and Fazhurozi stated the anti-communism movement that began to take a bloody turn.

“A string of murders of Dayak people with unknown perpetrator happened in Ledo, Seluas and Pahauman, Bengkayang and almost all areas with sizable ethnic Chinese communities. This situation was used by the military to scapegoat PGRS as perpetrators of the murders,” they stated.

On top of that, the military allegedly spread rumours that the Chinese were anti-Dayak and all Chinese communists.

The military reportedly used the categories ‘Dayak’ and ‘Chinese’ to indicate loyal citizens and communists, respectively during this time.

Manipulated by the military and enraged by the murders, the Dayak asked for support from the former governor of West Kalimantan and a respected Dayak figure, Johanes Christomus Oevaang Oeray.

Then through a Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) Pontianak broadcast on Sept 21, 1967, Oeray allegedly threatened the Chinese people to leave their areas and move to nearest district town.

Later, on Oct 11, 1967, the Dayak villagers attended a meeting to prepare for what was called a ‘Gerakan Demonstrasi’.

Some historians do not believe that it was Oeray who made the broadcast, but somebody using his name.

However, some believed that Oeray purposely cooperated with the Indonesian military to regain his political footing after he lost his influence over the Dayak community when Suharto came into power.

Regardless, the Dayaks took the broadcast as the announcement of Mangkok Merah.

What is Mangkok Merah?

Dwi Surya Atmaja and Fazhurozi explained in their book what Mangkok Merah meant in the culture of the Dayak of Kalimantan.

Basically, it is the traditional symbol of starting a war.

“Mangkok Merah was used to unite the Dayak tribes if they felt their sovereignty was in great danger. The tribal chiefs usually sent a red bowl (mangkok merah) filled with charcoal, chicken feather, pig blood, and juang leaves, to be passed around from one village to another quickly. A Dayak figure explained that Mangkok Merah was used to call for people, as a communication symbol used in emergencies. When someone brought it from one tribe to the other, it means: come and help us.”

The violence

Following the announcement, a string of massacres took place in West Kalimantan. The peak of violence happened in November 1967.

The attackers started to murder Chinese people using hunting weapons and burning their belongings.

Chinese shops were vandalised and the bodies were lined up on the streets.

Describing the violence in one of her papers, Nancy Lee Peluso stated, “Some Chinese turned their homes and possessions over the Dayak or other Indonesian neighbours for safe-keeping, not knowing they would not be allowed to return. Others ran into the forests and plantations, fearful but hoping to maintain a watch on their land, homes and possessions. From November to January, crowds of Dayak men and boys, wearing red headbands and carrying elongated bush knives (mandau), homemade hunting guns and military-issue firearms, violently evicted all remaining Chinese from the rural areas.”

Most historians estimated the deaths ranged from 300 to 500 with thousands more becoming refugees. The highest estimated number of refugees is 117,000.

By early 1968, the violence finally subsided.

How the Dayak and Chinese conflict lead to Dayak and Madurese conflict

With thousands of Chinese removed from rural areas in 1967, you might think that there would be more lands for the Dayak occupied.

Writing in the book Golddiggers, Farmers and Traders in the Chinese Districts of West Kalimantan, Mary F Somers Heidues stated, “The New Order actively encouraged migration of settlers from crowded areas of Java, Madura and Bali to less-populated spaces in the Outer Islands.”

She added if the Dayaks who participated in the 1967 Raids hoped that the emptied lands and properties would fall into their hands after the Chinese fled, they were to be disappointed.

“Although Dayaks moved into the area, Dayak hegemony did not last long,” Heidues stated.

Many settlers relocated from Java-Madura, Bugis and Bali into the area in stages. Heidues, further stated, “In the end, the Madurese were to become a focus of resentment in 1997.”

As for the Chinese refugees, many of them resettled in towns such as Pontianak and Singkawang.

How did the Ibans near Kalimantan border cope with Konfrontasi

People have been living along the border of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia with Kalimantan, Indonesia for centuries.

When there was a conflict such as the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation which broke out between the two countries, it was unfortunate that they found themselves caught in between.

So how did the Sarawakians near Kalimantan border cope with Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation or Konfrontasi?

On Sarawak’s side of the border, Commonwealth forces were flown in to help protect the border.

Besides this, they employed Iban and other border-dwelling Dayaks as scouts. They were a local auxiliary force, widely known as ‘Border Scouts’.

On the other side of the border, Indonesian army also employed Kalimantan Iban scouts to aid in patrolling their side of border.

Before the confrontation, the Iban communities from both side of the border had been living peacefully with each other.

Most of them had relatives across the border as intermarriages were common between different Iban longhouses, regardless of nationalities.

After they were employed by their respective countries, how did they do their work while still keeping their own relatives safe?

First of all, not all of the Ibans became scouts willingly.

According to Michael Eilenberg in the book At the Edges of States, most Kalimantan Iban had no particular interest in Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation.

However, a group of Iban from the Lanjak area were recruited by force as scouts.

These unwilling scouts did their uttermost to prevent clashes between the different border patrols Indonesian and Malaysian.

Eilenberg wrote, “Former Iban scouts in Lanjak recount how they purposely led the Indonesian military patrols in circles around the Malaysian patrols in order to prevent clashes. In doing so, they avoided being forced to fight Iban kin employed as scouts by the ‘enemy’.

One very common strategy employed by Iban trackers was to use different kinds of signals to warn the oncoming Iban trackers employed by the enemy.

For example, they imitated animal cries or simply wore their caps backward as a signal that regular soldiers were following close behind.

Life at Kalimantan border while coping with Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation

Those who lived near the Kalimantan border during the confrontation remembered it as a period of restriction.

With military forces guarding both sides of the border, contact with relatives over the border was made difficult.

Even though the border was officially closed, some of the locals had reportedly continued their cross-border interaction such as trading and visiting relatives.

But of course, these were done at considerable risk of being caught in the line of fire.

Furthermore, several Kalimantan Iban families took more drastic moves.

They permanently immigrated to Sarawak to live with their Sarawakian families.

In the paper Straddling the Border: A Marginal History of Guerrilla Warfare and Counter Insurgency in the Indonesian Borderlands, 1960s-1970s which was also written by Eilenberg, the researcher came across many Kalimantan Ibans who had immigrated to Sarawak either during the Confrontation or during the later communist insurgency.

He wrote, “A senior Iban, originally from the Lanjak area but now a Malaysian citizen, conveyed during a visit to Kalimantan how, after immigrating to Sarawak, he was employed by British soldiers to fight the Indonesian army and later awarded an honorary military insignia by the Malaysian state for his courage in the fighting. Ironically before immigrating, the same person had been employed as a scout by the Indonesian forces.”

Malaysian Border Scouts comprising indigenous peoples of Borneo
Some 1,500 men from the indigenous tribes of Sabah and Sarawak were recruited by the Malaysian government as Border Scouts under the command of Richard Noone and other officers from the Senoi Praaq to counter the Indonesian infiltrations. Credit: Public Domain in Malaysia and US.

Getting close with the Sarawakians near Kalimantan border as a military strategy

Speaking of the British soldiers, blending in with the locals is part of the Commonwealth forces’ military strategy.

The Director of Operations in Borneo during the confrontation was General Sir Walter Walker.

General Walker once stated, “We set out to speak their language and respect their customs and religion. We sent small highly work among them, to protect them and share their danger, to get to know them and gain their confidence. These troops were as friendly, understanding and patient to the villagers as they were tough and ruthless in the jungle. We sought to give the villagers a feeling of security by day and night, through the presence of phantom patrols and through constant visits by the civil administration, the police and the army. We helped their agriculture, improved their communications and trading facilities, improved their water supply, provided medical clinics and a flying doctor service, established schools, provided transistor wireless sets and attractive programmes, and so on.”

Additionally, Walker saw winning popular support as ‘absolutely vital to the success of operations because by winning over the people to your side, you can succeed in isolating your enemy from supplies, shelter and intelligence.’

In the meantime, Captain David L. Watkins wrote in his paper Confrontation: the Struggle of Northern Borneo that unless villages along the border could be secure day and night from Indonesian intruders, they could be intimidated into providing the enemy aid.

“Although an armed patrol could not be posted in every village, frequent visits could be made, not only by soldiers, but by police and civil administrators as well. These visits had several purposes, two of which were to ‘encourage the loyal to give information and to discourage the few disloyal from doing anything that would disturb the uneasy peace’.”

The safety of the locals came first

At the same time, Walker emphasised that the security and safety of the local Sarawakians would always come first.

He once wrote his command, “went to any length to keep our hands clean. One civilian killed by us would do more harm than ten killed by the enemy.”

He added, “If the price a village had to pay for its liberation from the enemy was to be its own destruction, then the campaign for hearts and minds would never have been won.”

As much as the Commonwealth forces as well as the government wanted to protect its people, deaths are inevitable during war (although this war was never officially declared).

In the end of the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation, the total number of civilian casualties are 36 killed and 53 wounded.

Why did Indonesia give guerrilla training to Sarawak Chinese youths during Konfrontasi?

During Konfrontasi or the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation, Indonesia lent their support to Sarawak Chinese.

But why?

When the formation of Malaysia was proposed, President Sukarno-led Indonesia was not the only who opposed the idea.

The Sarawak Communist movement was also against the idea of Malaysia.

Instead, the Sarawak Communists supported the idea of unification of all Borneo territories to form an independent leftist North Kalimantan state.

They gained support from Sukarno who let the Sarawak Communist Organisation use Indonesian Kalimantan as a base to build up a guerrilla force.

Why did Sarawak Chinese youths turn to communism at that time?

The then Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister, James Wong might have the right explanation on why communism seemed to be attractive to Sarawak Chinese youths.

As what was reported by Sabah Times on Dec 28, 1963, Wong stated,

“As we all know some of the younger generation of Chinese in Sarawak have been much affected by the teachings of Communism. There are all sorts of reason for this.

Many young Chinese are proud of the achievements of Communist China and feel that what is good in China should be copied here. Others have had their sense of idealism twisted and misused by the Communist leaders in the country who teach that Communism is the only road to justice in this world.

Others are discontented because they cannot get good jobs or feel they are not making enough money or that they do not own enough land and that Communism will provide the answer to all their problems.

The older people do not subscribe to these ideas, but many of the older Chinese in Sarawak are people who, in China, never received a proper education.

They are overawed by the fact that so many of their children can claim to possess an education and they defer to the views of their youngsters. They are unable or unwilling to exercise the restraints and disciplines which parents should be able to exercise.”

The testimony of a young Sarawak Chinese

According to a Sarawak Tribune report which was published on Dec 8, 1965, a young Sarawak Chinese revealed his experience being recruited into CCO.

“About April or May 1962, subject to the propaganda and influence of a cadre of the clandestine communist organisation, I joined the Farmer’s Association under the Sarawak clandestine communist organisation. In August of the same year I was again recommended by my leader to join the Sarawak Advanced Youths Association, a secret communist organisation.
Later in November, I was sent by my leader to do racial work in Tebedu. Meanwhile a racial work cell for Tebedu area was formed with me as one of the cell members.

Our method of work was to make use of the SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party) by asking the masses to join the party openly and then to absorb the better elements amongst the SUPP members into the Farmer’s Association.

In April 1963, our leader informed us that the organisation was prepared for armed struggle and wanted to send persons to receive military training in Indonesia. The Organisation wanted us to make a road from 23rd mile to Kampong Sidek in Indonesia via Tebedu.

The route was divided into four sections, and in May that year this new jungle track was completed secretly. On June 1st, the first batch of Sarawak youths of both sexes, about 40 in number, escaped to Indonesia by this jungle track.”

It was reported that harsh and contemptuous treatment by the Indonesians, as well as deprivations of jungle life had caused some of these Chinese to lose their ardour.

By the end of 1963, some of these Sarawak Chinese youths began to ‘trickle back into Sarawak’.

Those Communist exiles in Indonesia who have stayed behind, eventually would form the core of the North Kalimantan Communist Party’s two guerrilla formations.

The first one would be Sarawak People’s Guerrilla Force (SPGF) or Pasukan Gerilya Rakyat Sarawak (PGRS). Meanwhile, the second one was North Kalimantan People’s Army (Paraku).

With the assistance of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, PGRS was formed Mar 30, 1964 at Mount Asuansang in West Kalimantan.

How many of the Sarawak Chinese youths were in Kalimantan?

According to Justus M. Van Der Kroef in The Sarawak-Indonesian Border insurgency, “Already by mid-1964 more than one thousand Sarawak Chinese, mostly youths had crossed into Indonesia to receive guerrilla training, subsequently returning with Indonesian terrorist units, while others affiliated with the TNKU (Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara).”

It is believed that Sarawak Chinese youths were still slipping over the border into Indonesia to train for guerrilla war against their home state as late as March 1966.

As for the sympathisers, Herald-Journal’s report on Sept 2, 1971 might had some explanation on why some Sarawakians were not totally against communism.

First of all, the communists actually helped the people in the fields and give them medical care.

Additionally, the report stated, “Some farmers and villagers almost never see a government official; often the Communists win simply by default. In rural areas, Chinese shopkeepers have found it safer to keep quiet and roll with the punches. They don’t resist if a guerrilla demands bicycles so the frames can be made into shotguns.”

There were other impacts of communists insurgency in Sarawak mainly due to the curfew implemented in the state.

Herald-Journal reported, “Babies died of malnutrition and of diseases that could be cured because their families couldn’t go out after help. Government teams offered some relief but not all people could be reached by the limited staff.”

In the meantime, the British Intelligence estimated that there might be some 24,000 Chinese Communist sympathisers at a point in Sarawak.

The end of communist insurgency in Sarawak

While the confrontation officially ended on Aug 11, 1966, the communist insurgency in Sarawak continued until 1990.

The number of communist operatives distinctly decreased in the 1973-1974 when Sarawak then Chief Minister Abdul Rahman Ya’kub managed to convince several of the insurgents to lay down their arms.

One of their leaders Bong Kee Chok surrendered along with 481 of his supporters.

The final peace agreement communist insurgency was ratified in Kuching on Oct 17, 1990.

That was when the last of the communist operatives officially surrendered, marking the end of communist insurgency in Sarawak.

Members of the SPGF NKNA and TNI taking picture together
Members of the Sarawak People’s Guerilla Force (SPGF), North Kalimantan National Army (NKNA) and Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) taking photograph together marking the close relations between them during Indonesia under the rule of Sukarno. Credit: Copyright Expired.

Legend of a two-tailed monster and how poison came about in Borneo

Poison always plays a role in a legend or fairy tale. The most famous example is in Snow White where the evil queen gave the princess a poisoned apple.

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Here in Borneo, we have our own version of how poison came about and it came from the mountainous part of this island.

According to Gallih Balang from Pa Longan who wrote to the Sarawak Gazette on July 31, 1965, the legend starts with a hunter named Parang.

One day, while he was out on a hunt, he walked and crossed many streams and mountains. On his way to the top of a hill, he saw a cleared field.

Parang was interested to examine the field and wanted to know what kind of creature could be there. He then decided to sit and watch.

The appearance of a monster

After some time, there came a strange monster. At first, Parang thought it was a crocodile. Unlike a crocodile, however, the creature had two tails.

The appearance of the crocodile amazed Parang as he never seen such a creature.

When Parang returned home, he told his fellow villagers what he had seen. They all gathered together and decided to kill the monster.

Gathering all kinds of weapon such as blowpipes, knives, spears and shields, they all went ahead to find the monster.

When they reached the field, the two-tailed monster was not there. So they decided to wait until the creature came back.

The moment the monster appeared, the villagers killed it. They then discovered that the name of the monster was Ale, the eater, and were relieved with its death.

About three months after they killed Ale, the villagers returned to the site where they killed it.

They found the body had rotted away but only its tails were still fresh as if still alive.

They took the tails home and used it to poison animals and people(!). That was how poison was discovered in Borneo. At the time of Gallih’s account in the 1960s, it was believed that the Bisayas in the interior and along the coast still used the poison.

According to Gallih, the people named the place where the monster was killed Budok Ale, and it is actually not far from Long Bawan, Kalimantan.

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A view of Long Bawan in 2019.

10 reasons you should visit Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo

The Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo is an enchanting place located at an altitude between 760 and 1200 meters.

Unlike the lowlands of Borneo which is known for its hot and humid climate, this place offers cool weather and chilly winds, especially at night.

Located in North Kalimantan, Indonesia, the highlands lie right along the border with Sarawak and Sabah of Malaysia.

Administrative-wise, the highlands are divided into five-sub-districts in the Nunukan District.

Long Bawan works as its centre with connecting flights from Indonesian towns of Nunukan, Tarakan and Malinau.

Visitors can also visit the highlands by road from Ba Kelalan, Sarawak.

The Heart of Borneo is an initiative of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia to preserve and maintain the sustainability of Borneo’s last remaining rainforest.

Part of the conservation done for the initiative is to improve the conservation management in the area and documenting traditional ecological knowledge.

Here are 10 reasons why you should visit the Krayan Highlands in the Heart of Borneo:
1.For the biodiversity at the Heart of Borneo Highlands
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A pitcher plant.

Most parts of the Krayan Highlands are covered by heath forest. The locals call it tana’ payeh.

There you can find unique flora and fauna including pitcher plants and various kinds of wild orchids.

2.Learn about the culture of Lundayeh people
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The Krayan Highlands are home to mostly Lundayeh people.

The highlands are the homeland of several thousand Dayak community especially the Lundayeh. Besides them, there are also the Kelabit, Sa’ban and Penan people living there.

The best place to learn about Lundayeh culture is at Cultural Field School near Trang Baru village.

It is a space for cultural celebrations as well as where you can learn about traditional music and dances.

The school is initiated by Formadat (Forum of the Indigenous People of the Highlands of Borneo) in collaboration with WWF-Indonesia.

There you can also learn traditional wood carving and rattan weaving.

3.Visit ancient burial sites called “perupun”
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The ruins of a perupun.

Forget about the pyramids, “perupun” are ancient Lundayeh burial sites that can be found in the Krayan Highlands.

Villages including Pa Rupai, Terang Baru, Long Umung, Pa Raye, Long Layu, Long Api and Pa Kebuan all have perupun of their own.

These ancient graves were built by piling up dozens of huge stones on the burial ground.

However, nobody really knows how the olden communities of Krayan Highlands were able to do that.

4.Visit the mysterious crocodile mounds

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A crocodile mound which is now covered in vegetation.

Here is another mysterious archaeological site of the Krayan Highlands; the crocodile mounds.

The ancestors of Lundayeh people built them as a sign of bravery especially after returning from a successful headhunting trip.

These crocodile mounds can be found in places like Long Midang, Tang Payeh, Terang Baru and Long Layu.

Most of the heads of these crocodiles were built facing the river. This was to protect the community who built them from enemies coming from the river.

The unexplainable part of these mounds is that, there are no crocodiles in Krayan Highlands.

5.Watch how mountain salt is processed

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Natural salt brine being boiled in a salt production house in Long Midang.

Mountain salt is one of the most important sources of livelihood of the Krayan Highlands.

Salt production occurs all-year round but is more intensive when the locals are not working on their rice fields.

Most of production houses where this salt is processed are a humble building made from wooden planks with zinc roof.

There, the brine from salt springs are boiled for at least 24 hours before the crystallised salt is dried and packaged for marketing.

Make sure you buy some as souvenirs before you go home.

6.Enjoy the scenic view of paddy farms
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The view of Krayan Highlands paddy fields from a plane.

The main source of income for the locals Krayan Highlands is paddy farming.

These paddy farms offer scenic view of the highlands regardless of the season. The local farmers start to prepare the rice seedlings in July and then they begin to plant. The harvesting period is usually starts late December until February.

While buffaloes are commonly found in the highlands, they are only used to trample the paddy field and eating the weeds.

The rice from Krayan Highlands has the certificate of Geographic Indication (GI), thanks to the unique characteristics of this rice.

Known as adan rice, it comes in red, white and black colours.

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A black adan rice.
7.Take a look at rock art
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A Batu Narit in Pa Rupai village of Krayan Highlands.

Batu Narit is a form of rock art found in several places in the Krayan Highlands including Pa Rupai village.

The one in Pa Rupai have several motives including a snake and some geometrical shapes.

Nobody knows who exactly carved these rocks and the meanings behind these motives.

8.Take a sip of Krayan’s ‘Fountain of Youth’
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Wash your face at the Fountain of Youth of Borneo.

Locally known as Air Bunga, the small stream named Ba’ Sarang is the Krayan version of Fountain of Youth.

Locals believe the water flows from the stream has anti-aging properties as well as healing powers.

The stream is located five-minute walk from the town hall of Tang Payeh village.

Even if you do not believed in the water’s miraculous power, a walk to the stream passing through paddy field is therapeutic enough.

9.Have a gastronomic adventure of Lundayeh food
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Some of Lundayeh delicacies.

The Lundayeh people have their own unique culinary food which are made from their own farms and jungle produce.

Their desserts and pastries are mostly made from rice flour, which is widely available.

One of their must-try dishes is biter, a type of rice porridge cooked with different vegetables such as cassava leaves and ginger flower.

Additionally, there are so many fruits to choose from and all of them are locally sourced.

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Terap or tarap fruit.
10.Hike up the hill of legendary hero Yuvai Semaring
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How the top of Yuvai Semaring hill looks like from afar.

If trekking is your thing then you cannot miss a visit up the hill of Yuvai Semaring.

The hill stands about 1,100 meters offering hikers the beautiful view of Krayan Highlands settlements.

On the top of the hill, hikers can also explore the mountain ranges which border the highlands to Sarawak and Sabah.

It takes only less than an hour to climb. A trip to the Krayan Highlands is definitely incomplete without looking at the highlands from the top of Yuvai Semaring.

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#KajoPicks: 5 movies inspired by the Gwangju Uprising you should watch

In 1980, South Korean president Chun Do-hwan’s military rule led to a confrontation in a city of Gwangju, the southern region of South Korea. The confrontation would later be known as the Gwangju Uprising, May 18 Gwangju Democratisation Movement or May 18 Democratic Uprising by UNESCO.

From May 18 to 27, 1980, Gwangju residents took up arms by robbing local armories and police stations.

The uprising started when local Chonnam University students started to demonstrate against the government’s martial law.

About 200 students gathered at the the gate of the university and were opposed by 30 paratroopers on the morning of May 18.

By evening, the government dispatched 686 soldiers to the scene as the conflict broadened to more than 2,000 protesters.

Witnesses reported the soldiers attacked both protesters and onlookers.

As the conflict escalated, the army started to fire on civilians, killing an unaccounted number on May 20.

The protesters then began to seize weapons from police stations and armories, then attacking the army.

By May 21, the soldiers left and citizens took over the city. On May 26, the army returned to retake the city. After less than two hours of operations, the army arrested 1,740 rioters.

Like many riots or protests around the world, there is no universally accepted number of the death toll during the Gwangju Uprising.

The official figures stand at 144 civilians, 22 troops and four policeman killed. However based on foreign press, the actual death toll could be up to 2,000.

After South Korean President Moon Jae-in took over office in May 2017, he vowed to investigate the government’s role during the Gwangju Uprising.

Later it was revealed for the first time that the army had used a helicopter to fire on civilians.

In 2018, the South Korean government formally apologised for the rape of women by troops during the Gwangju Uprising.

A formal investigation by the government confirmed there were 17 cases of sexual assault, including against teenagers and a pregnant woman.

The Gwangju Uprising definitely left a dark mark in South Korean history. According to Korea Resource Center, it ignited the floundering pro-democracy movement in Korea culminating in 1987 when the People’s Power movement finally broke the power of the South Korean military.

With a number of references and portrayal in popular culture, South Korea’s younger generation will not forget this piece of their history.

So here are KajoMag’s picks of five movies to watch inspired by the Gwangju Uprising:
1.26 Years (2012)

This movie is a fictional story circling around five ordinary people from different backgrounds who come together to kill the person behind the massacre during Gwangju Uprising.

26 years after the massacre in 2006, a sports shooter, a gangster, a policeman, a businessman and head of private security firm plot revenge against the man responsible.

Former president Chun Doo-hwan is believed to given the order to fire on civilians but he is not explicitly named in the movie.

However, the target clearly is referring to Chun.

The main three characters are Kwak Jin-bae (Jin Goo), a gangster who lost his father during the uprising, Shim Mi-jin (Han Hye-jin) a national team shooter and policeman Kwon Jung-kyuk (Im Seul-ong) who lost his family.

2.Peppermint Candy (1999)

After watching this movie, you will never forget the iconic opening scene when the main character Yong-ho faces an oncoming train, screaming “I want to go back again!”

As the movie starts with the suicide of Yong-ho, the story unfolds through flashbacks some of the important events over the past 20 years leading to his death.

Every event in his life coincides with some of the major incidents in South Korean history, including the Gwangju Uprising.

During his flashback to the uprising, Yong-ho is seen performing his mandatory military service. This is when he accidentally shoots and kills a student protester.

It also shows how he becomes traumatised by the shooting incident and later becomes a more brutal and cynical policeman.

Likewise, Yong-ho ends up losing his job in the 1990s, mirroring the real-life impact of the Asian financial crisis.

The movie explores different themes, including how it killed the innocence of those who pulled the triggers during the uprising.

Watch the trailer here.

3.Fork Lane (2017)
Fork Lane 2017

Similar to Peppermint Candy, Fork Lane (2017) follows the story of a soldier trying to cope with his life after Gwangju Uprising.

It tells the story of Kim Gang-il (Uhm Tae-woong), a paratrooper who was sent to suppress the protesters during the demonstration.

After his retirement, he works as a forklift driver. Eventually, he starts to uncover the truth from his past.

4.May 18 (2007)
May 18 film

Most of the protesters during the Gwangju Uprising were not part of the initial protest in front of the university but were acting in retaliation after their loved ones were attacked by the soldiers.

The main character, Min-woo (Kim Sang-kyung) leads a peaceful life with his younger brother Jin-woo (Lee Joon-gi) until the uprising happens.

Angry that his classmate is beaten to death by the military while they are not even college students, Jin-woo leads his friends into the streets to protest.

Meanwhile, Min-woo wants to stop his brother from taking part in the uprising.

This movie shows how the first attack on civilians on May 18 triggers other unassuming citizens to fight for what is right.

5.A Taxi Driver (2017)

While other movies inspired by the Gwangju Uprising are fictional, here is a movie that might be closest to the real event.

The story follows a taxi driver Man-seon (Song Kang-ho) who receives an offer to drive a foreign journalist from Seoul to Gwangju during the uprising.

The character is loosely based on real-life taxi driver Kim Sa-bok whose existence remained out of the public eye until the release of A Taxi Driver. He died of cancer in 1984, four years after the Gwangju events.

Meanwhile, the journalist Peter (Thomas Kretschmann) is based on the life Jurgen Hinzpeter (1937-2016) who filmed and reported on the Gwangju Uprising.

His widow, Edeltraut Brahmstaedt watched the movie with President Moon in 2017. The Blue House later released a statement saying, “The movie shows how a foreign reporter’s efforts contributed to Korea’s democratization, and President Moon saw the film to honor Hinzpeter in respect for what he did for the country.”

The film turned out to be a commercial success and was the second highest grossing film of 2017.

Watch the trailer here.

8 must-watch movies inspired by the Korean Independence Movement

The Korean Independence Movement was a military and diplomatic campaign to achieve the independence of Korea from Japan.

One of the earliest public displays of the resistance took place on March 1, 1919, widely known as The March 1st Movement.

On that day, 33 activists gathered to read out loud the Korean Declaration of Independence. The event subsequently brought together 2 million Koreans, participating in more than 1,500 demonstrations at various locations.

Historians believe The March 1st Movement provided a catalyst for the Korean Independence Movement.

Many Korean independence activists were executed during the resistance. It was only until the end of World War II that the Koreans gained their independence from the Japanese.

Known as Gwangbokjeol (literally translated as “the day the light returned”), the National Liberation Day of Korea is a public holiday celebrated annually on August 15.

It is notable, as it is the only Korean public holiday celebrated by both North and South Korea.

In North Korea, the day is known as Chogukhaebangui nal or “Liberation of the Fatherland Day”.

Over the years, South Korean movie makers have turned to Korean independence movement for inspiration.

Though they are not 100 per cent historically correct, the movies still manage to educate the younger generations about their history as well as to commemorate the sacrifices made by those before them.

For history buffs out there, here are 8 must-watch movies based on the Korean Independence Movement:
1.The Age of Shadows (2016)

Set in the late 1920s, this movie follows a group of Korean Independence Movement members trying to bring explosives into Shanghai to destroy key Japanese facilities in Seoul.

The key resistance figure is Kim Woo-jin (Gong Yoo) who uses his antique shop as a front to smuggle these explosives.

Meanwhile, Korean police captain Lee Jung-chool (Song Kang-ho) has been charged by the residing Japanese government with rooting out resistance members as he is known to sell out his own people to gain favour from the Japanese.

After Jung-chool’s former classmate Kim Jang-ok (Park Hee-soon) who is also a resistance fighter dies, he begins to doubts his loyalty to the Japanese.

So a cat and mouse game begins between the resistance fighters and the Japanese agents who are out to get them.

Watch the trailer here.

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Gong Yoo as a resistance figher in The Age of Shadows. Credits: Youtube
2.Assassination (2015)

After The March 1st Movement, many Korean resistance fighters were forced into exile in China.

This movie is set in the year 1933. It was when the resistance fighters in China were trying to organise a fight from .

They find that the highest commander of the Japanese army is going to visit Korea. Hence, they plot an assassination attempt.

However, the only sniper capable to do the job is Ahn Ok-yun (Jun Ji-hyun). She is serving her time in Shanghai prison.

Resistance fighter Yem Sek-jin (Lee Jung-jae) is assigned to rescue her from the prison. Little that the rest of the resistance members know that Sek-jin is a mole who secretly reporting to the Japanese.

Watch the trailer here.

3.The Battle: Roar to Victory (2019)

From June 6 to 7, 1920, a confrontation occurred between a Korean independence militia of 1,300 under the command of Hong Beom-do and a Japanese battalion consisting of 500 troops.

The fight is known as the Battle of Fengwudong or Battle of Bongo-dong.

Inspired by this event, the movie centers around resistance fighter Hwang Hae-cheol (Yoo Hae-jin) and his subordinate Byeong-gu (Jo Woo-jin).

Their main operation is to deliver funds to the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai.

During this operation, they reunite with Jang-ha (Rye Jun-yeoul) who has a secret mission.

Jang-ha has been assigned to bait the Japanese forces into Bongo-dong mountains where the battle eventually takes place.

Watch the trailer here.

4.Dongju, the Portrait of Poet (2016)

This film biopic is based on Yun Dong-ju. He was a Korean poet, imprisoned by the Japanese for his involvement in Korean Independence Movement.

Throughout his life, he wrote lyric and resistance poetry. He even chose 19 poems to publish in a collection called “Sky, Wind, Star and Poem”.

However, he was arrested as a communist supporter in 1943 and detained in Kyoto.

The following year, he was sentenced to two years in prison for having participated in the Korean Independence Movement.

Unfortunately, Dong-ju died in imprisonment in February 1945.

His poems were published posthumously and later known as resistance poems of the late occupation period.

In the movie, Kang Ha-neul gives one of his most impressive performances yet as the late poet.

Watch the trailer here.

5.Anarchist from the Colony (2017)

Park Yeol is a self-proclaimed anarchist and revolutionary activist during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

He attended high school in Seoul. However, he was forced to leave in 1919 due to his suspected participation in the March 1st Movement.

Later, he was convicted of high treason in Japan for conspiring an attack against Crown Prince Hirohito.

In the movie, he is portrayed by Lee Je-hoon while his girlfriend Fumiko Kaneko is portrayed by Choi Hee-seo.

Watch the trailer here.

6.A Resistance (2019)

One of the key figures in the March 1st Movement was a woman named Ryu Gwan-sun (also known as Yu Gwansun).

She was the organiser for the peaceful protest in the province of South Chungcheong.

Together with her family, Gwan-sun went door-to-door to encourage the public to join in the Korean Independence Movement.

She was subsequently arrested while her parents were killed by the Japanese military police.

Unfortunately, Gwan-sun died on Sept 28, 1920 from injuries she suffered from torture by the Japanese prison officers.

The movie follows the story of Gwan-sun (Go Ah-sung) as she fights for Korean independence even while in prison.

Watch the trailer here.

7.MalMoE: The Secret Mission (2019)

When Korea was under Japanese rule, the Korean language was banned in 1938 in favour of the Japanese language.

The movie centers around the real-life members of Korean Language Society who are secretly trying to publish a Korean language dictionary.

Founded in 1908 by Ju Si-gyeong, the society is a hangul and Korean language research group.

In 1942, more than 30 of their members were arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese and two later died in prison.

It stars Yoo Hae-jin as Kim Pan-soo. He is an illiterate who meets representatives of the Korean Language Society. Later, he joins the secret mission to publish the dictionary.

Watch the trailer here.

8.Spirit’s Homecoming (2016)

While this is not exactly a movie based on Korean Independence Movement, it is a film that shines light on the dark side of a Japanese occupied country.

Korean director Cho Jung-rae was so inspired by a painting by Kang Il-chul, he made this movie, dedicating it to all Comfort Women.

Ill-chul was a Comfort Woman, who was abused and forced into sex slavery by Japanese soldiers especially during World War II.

Set in 1943, the story focuses on Jung-min (Kang Ha-na) who is separated from her family by Japanese soldiers. They were shipped off in wagons for livestock to Manchuria and used as Comfort Women.

Together with Young-hee (Son Sook) and other girls in the brothel, they try to cope with their situations while plotting their escape.

The second part of the movie is how Young-hee lives as an elderly woman who is trying to make peace with her dark past.

Watch the trailer here.

12 Indonesia-Malaysia combats during Konfrontasi you should know

Also known as Konfrontasi, the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation was an undeclared war with most of the battles happening between Kalimantan (Indonesia) and East Malaysia.

The confrontation was a result from Indonesia’s opposition to the creation of Malaysia.

Initially, Indonesian attacks on East Malaysia comprised of local volunteers trained by the Indonesian Army.

Over a period of time, the intrusions became more organised with involvement of Indonesian forces.

On the Malaysian side, the British provided help to Malaysian forces with periodic contributions from Australian and New Zealand forces.

The intensity of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation eventually subsided after the 30 September Movement when six Indonesian Army generals were assassinated.

Indonesia formally recognised Malaysia when a final peace agreement was signed on Aug 11, 1966.

Still, many lives were lost on both sides with combats happening in small-sized operations.

Here are at least 12 Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation combats you should know about:
British forces in Borneo during Confrontation
While operating in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation, a soldier is winched up to a Westland Wessex HAS3 of 845 Naval Air Squadron, during operations in the jungle. Another soldier is kneeling on the edge of the extraction zone. Credit: Public Domain.
1.Attack on Tebedu police station

The first infiltration and attack as part of Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation was recorded in April 1963.

On Apr 12, 1963, an Indonesian force attacked and seized Tebedu police station. Although Malaysia was not formed yet, the Malaysian government considered this as the first military attack on the-then future East Malaysia.

The raid, which happened on Good Friday that year, caused the death of a corporal and two wounded soldiers.

2.Battle of Long Jawai

On Sept 28, 1963, a large number of Indonesian troops crossed the Sarawak-Kalimantan border and attacked the outpost at Long Jawai.

After exchanging fires for several hours, one Gurkha was killed and ten Malaysian border scouts were captured and later executed.

3.The Kalabakan Incident

The locals of Kalabakan, Tawau unfortunately witnessed one attack by the Indonesian forces on Dec 29, 1963.

Nonetheless, the attack successfully brought different groups of Malaysians to fight together for one sole cause.

A battalion from the 3rd Royal Malay Regiment (RMR) from Peninsular Malaysia, the Police Field Force, Sabah Home Guard and even Kalabakan villagers united to fight off the Indonesian forces.

The Kalabakan Incident resulted in the deaths of eight men from RMR and 18 others injured.

4.Landing at Pontian

On Aug 17, 1964, Indonesian troops made an amphibious landing at the Pontian district of Johor.

The troops landed in three different locations along Pontian coast according to plan. However, Malaysians security forces were quick to respond with half of the raiders captured immediately upon landing.

5.Landing at Kesang river

Located on the border between the Malaysian states of Malacca and Johor, Kesang river witnessed an amphibious raid conducted by a small force of Indonesian volunteers on Oct 29, 1964.

52 of these volunteers sailed across the Straits of Malacca in fishing vessels on each side of the mouth of the Kesang river.

Their action plan was to blend in with the locals and to launch guerrilla raids against Malaysian infrastructure.

However, Malaysian fishermen spotted the raiders and quickly informed the authorities.

The British troops, assisted by the Australians immediately arrived to the scene where they killed and captured all but two of the invaders.

6.Landing at Labis

About a month later after the landing at Kesang river, the Indonesians made another landing on Sept 2, 1964 near Labis, Johor and this time via air.

Three Indonesian Air Force aircraft set off from Jakarta but only two landed as the third aircraft crashed into the Straits of Malacca.

Under the command of 4th Malaysian Infantry Brigade, the operation took about a month to round up all the 98 paratroopers.

32 of the intruders were killed while the rest were captured.

7.Action of Dec 13, 1964

The Action of Dec 13, 1964 was a naval action between the Australian minesweeper HMAS Teal and two Indonesian vessels.

It took place in the Singapore Strait where HMAS Teal was conduction patrols at night. The two Indonesian vessels fired automatic weapons upon HMAS Teal. The Australian ship killed three and captured four other during the combat.

8.Battle of Plaman Mapu

The Battle of Plaman Mapu was one of the largest battles of the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation.

In the early hours of Apr 27, 1965, a battalion of Indonesian soldiers launched a surprise attack on B Company, 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in their base at Plaman Mapu.

The British was outnumbered by at least five to one but they still managed to cause significant damage on the Indonesians.

In the end, the battle took the lives of 30 Indonesians and two British troops.

9.Battle of Sungei Koemba

The Battle of Sungei Koemba was part of the wider Operation Claret that took place along the Sungai Koemba in Kalimantan.

The battle consisted of two ambushes conducted by two platoons from the Australian forces.

B Company ambushed Indonesian troops on May 27, 1965 resulting in significant Indonesian casualties and no loss for the Australians.

Meanwhile, the second ambush happened a little further downstream from the last one by a platoon from C Company. Occurred on June 12, 1965, the second ambush again resulted in heavy Indonesian casualties for no loss to the Australians.

Royal Marines Commando patrolling in Sabah Indonesia Malaysia confrontation
British Royal Marines Commando unit armed with machine gun and Sten gun patrolling using a boat in the river on Serudong, Sabah between 1963 until 1966. Credit: Malaysian Archive [Public domain]
10.Battle of Kindau

Three days after the last ambush at Sungei Koemba, a platoon from A Company successfully ambushed another large Indonesian force at Kindau, Kalimantan.

The ambush resulted in about 25 to 50 Indonesian casualties and two Australians wounded.

Unlike other engagements under Operation Claret which remained under wraps, Battle of Kindau was caught by the media after a journalist interviewed one of the wounded Australians.

However, the news was reported under the pretence the battle took place within Malaysian authority.

11.Battle of Babang

This was the last in a series of successful ambushes conducted between May and July 1965 by Australian troops from 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR).

The battle took place on July 12, 1965 at Babang, Kalimantan as part of the wider British-Commonwealth Operation Claret.

On that day, 7 Platoon C was in an ambush position along a track near the Indonesian base at Babang. Around noon time, a force of about 30 Indonesians approached along the track. The Australians ambushed the Indonesian troops subsequently killing at least 13 of them and wounded five.

The cross-border attack was to provide warning to the Indonesian troops not to incur into Sarawak territory.

12.Battle of Bau or Battle of Gunung Tepoi

On Nov 21, 1965, 16 members of the British Army Gurkhas launched an attack on about 100 Indonesian troops.

The Gurkhas were then supported by the 104 men resulting the Indonesians to withdraw.

After the battle, the Indonesians reported at least 24 men killed in action and the British lost three men.

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