Thursday, April 30, 2009

No return for Chin Peng

Chin Peng cannot come back unless he first produces birth and citizen certificates. -- PHOTO: ASIA WITNESS PRODUCTION

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S top court refused on Thursday to allow the return of a former guerrilla who led the communist insurgency against British rule and has been in exile for nearly five decades, a lawyer said.

A three-judge panel in the Federal Court upheld a June 2008 lower court ruling that Chin Peng cannot come back unless he first produces birth and citizen certificates, said Chin Peng's attorney, Darshan Singh Khaira.

Lawyers for the 84-year-old Chin Peng, who now lives in southern Thailand, have argued that the certificates are irrelevant and that they would be impossible to produce because the British colonial government seized them in the 1940s.

'I have spoken to him; he is very disappointed in the court,' Mr Darshan said.

Chin Peng led the 1948-57 communist insurgency against British Commonwealth troops when Malaysia, then known as Malaya, was under British rule. Some 10,000 people are believed to have been killed during that period, the bloodiest in the country?s modern history.

When his Marxist-Leninist insurgency waned, Chin Peng fled to China in 1960, and later to Thailand. He was never allowed to return even though he signed a peace treaty in 1989 and pledged loyalty to the Malaysian government.

Chin Peng, an ethnic Chinese whose real name is Ong Boon Hua, has been fighting a legal battle since 2005 to be let back to his country of birth.

Government officials have said the insurgency still evokes bad memories and that allowing Chin Peng back would upset many who lost family or friends in the conflict.

Mr Darshan said Chin Peng might try to ask the Federal Court to reconsider its verdict under a process called judicial review, which would be his last legal option. He also might bring his case to international legal organisations to lobby the Malaysian government, Mr Darshan said.

The Brussels-based International Association of Democratic Lawyers last year urged Malaysia to let Chin Peng return. -- AP

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