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The Pretty Communist, and a Hollywood Star

What could possibly connect Hollywood movie star George Sanders with the Malayan Emergency and the communist government of Hungary? On 24 July, 1952 Special Branch officers raided a house in the Lahat Road in Ipoh and arrested two women. They were held in custody and ‘rigorously interrogated’. One of the women Cheow Yin ‘committed suicide’ in her cell. The other twenty four year old Lee Ten Tai, known as Lee Meng (photographed here in 2007) was eventually charged with possession of a pistol and a grenade and consorting with persons armed with weapons and ammunition. Under Emergency regulations, these charges all carried the death penalty. The assessor system in Perak, where Lee Meng was arrested, provided for her trial by a European judge assisted by two assessors. There was, of course, no jury. The judge had to agree with only one other person to convict and sentence a prisoner to death. Lee Meng faced her accusers in style. She was, according to the leering journalists in court, exceedingly pretty and her navy blue slacks and checked blouse showed off her prison diminished frame. The Straits Times headline declared: Pretty Girl Gave Murder Orders! (The same edition lamented the fall in […]
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Greene Propaganda

It seemed appropriate this week to post some notes about a rather more impressive BBC DG than the unfortunate George Entwistle.  For the first few years of the Emergency war, propaganda efforts had been confused and paltry. By the beginning of the 1950s, with the arrival of General Briggs, a root and branch reform of both intelligence gathering and propaganda objectives was underway. Briggs had repeatedly stressed the importance of breaking down communist morale through targeted propaganda. Investment in the psychological battlefield was ramped up when it became clear that Briggs’ other proposed strategies had begun to harm the MNLA. For Briggs, resettlement would be a blunt weapon without rigorous food control. The aim was simple – starve the MNLA to defeat or death. The typical resettlement camp was a hunger machine. Each camp was encircled by barbed wire, with just two entrances which were stringently patrolled. The district authorities purchased every kind of food supply in controlled quantities. Food was secured in silos and could be purchased only by holders of ration cards. Rice was rationed. Store holders were required to keep a meticulous record of every item sold. Foodstuffs arrived in the camps at strictly controlled times; supplies […]
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