During the Second World War Chin Peng, a young Chinese-Malayan, fought with the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army, a period of service for which he received an OBE for his contribution to the British war effort. Called by one British intelligence officer 'Britain's most trusted guerrilla representative', Chin Peng was nevertheless always fighting for his own people and beliefs. The British at the time were, however, natural allies. By 1948, however, Chin Peng had become an enemy to his erstwhile friends. As Secretary-General of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) he became the leader of the guerrilla forces during the Malayan Emergency.
Chin Peng's position was difficult. It is unlikely that the communist cause would have succeeded by purely political means; and his decision to embark on a guerrilla war against the British backfired because the insurgents were not supported by the wider Malay population. Nor did the MCP receive assistance from the wider communist world. Limited to using small arms, many dating from the Second World War, never exceeding more a few thousand armed members and without a dedicated radio system to ensure the quick transmission of messages, the communist attempt to defeat the authorities using military means seemed, with the benefit of hindsight, doomed to fail.
On one occasion his having resorted to guerrilla warfare almost cost Chin Peng his life. During November 1953 three of his bodyguards were killed and another three wounded when Lincolns from No. 1 Squadron RAAF bombed his jungle camp.
After the Malayan Emergency, Chin took refuge in China and continued to work for the creation of a communist Malayan state. Ultimately, however, time and economic development overtook Chin Peng's dream. For two decades following the end of the Emergency sporadic violent episodes reminded people of the insurgency but in 1989 the MCP leadership, under Chin Peng, signed peace accords that enabled the remaining, aging, guerrillas to live in resettlement villages in southern Thailand.