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After the Second World War


The Japanese remained in control of Malaysia and Singapore until August 1945 when European control was re-established. Indo-China and much of Indonesia were now under Mountbatten's South East Asia Administrative Order (SEAC), charged with the task of restoring administration throughout the region. Resources were, however, insufficient.

Indonesian nationalist, Achmed Sukarno, declared Indonesia independent in August 1945, and Vietnam was handed over to the French in 1946. In Burma and Malaya the abandonment of the population to the Japanese had badly damaged the reputation of the British.

By 1945 the British government had accepted the need for self-government in Burma. The Thakins under the ex-student leader Aung San played a key part in the <<Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League>> which assisted in the defeat of the Japanese. Aung San met Attlee in London in December 1946, to negotiate independence. He became the Burmese Prime Minister in 1947, but was assassinated at a cabinet meeting in July the same year. His successor, U Nu, negotiated independence for October 1947. U Nu had already rejected Commonwealth membership when the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma was founded in January 1948. Communist and separatist groups soon plunged the country into civil war.

Malaya and Malaysia

The British had a big economic stake in Malaysia and, while communism had a strong grip amongst the Chinese, there was no coherent nationalist movement to oppose them. The British envisaged a multi-racial nation with economic development and sound administration. The Anglo-Malay Treaty of 1945 ushered in British control, but plans to grant citizenship to non-Malays provoked opposition.

Following negotiations with Malay leaders, Britain inaugurated The Federation of Malaya in February 1948. This created a central government, but guaranteed Malay political domination. Fearing that Chin Peng's Communists were promoting violent unrest, the British declared a state of emergency in Malaya in 1948 that lasted until 1960.

In spite of the expense of resisting the communists, the British were determined and, particularly after Sir Gerald Templer became British High Commissioner in 1952, the counter-insurgency campaign began to show signs of success. Chin Peng's communists had little support outside the Chinese community and in the elections of 1955, Tunku Abdul Rahman's Alliance won virtually all the seats. The British refused to negotiate a settlement with Chin Peng at the Baling talks in 1955, and independence was formalised in August 1957.

The Federation of Malaysia (Malaya), involving Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah, was created between 1961 and 1963. Britain retained a military presence until the monetary crisis forced withdrawal from Singapore in 1971.