1940-1949 | Burning villages | Collective punishments | Malaysia | Punitive operations

British troops burn the Malayan village of Kachau

Arthur Creech Jones –
National Portrait Gallery

2 November 1948

On 2 November 1948, British troops and colonial police burned down the village of Kachau in the Malayan state of Selangor. The four hundred inhabitants were given two hours to collect their belongings.  Arthur Creech Jones, the secretary of state for the colonies, questioned about the incident in the House of Commons, explained that the villagers had been ‘warned of the consequences of continued collaboration (with insurgents fighting British rule) but they consistently failed to give assistance to the authorities.’ Therefore, ‘the police and troops took stern action and burned down 61 houses.’  He added that there hadn’t been any need to provide the homeless victims with any relief because they ‘found shelter with their friends.’1

One predictable consequence of such brutal measures was that the Malayan insurgents began to issue similar threats. The rebels were understandably concerned that villagers would be pressured into depriving them of food and informing on their whereabouts, so they now warned villagers that they would burn down the hut of anyone who cooperated with the British.    Nevertheless,  Sir Henry Gurney, the governor of Malaya, refused to admit any regrets over initiating the cycle of harsh punishment, declaring that the villagers had been at fault for allowing the armed insurgents to operate freely.  The Chinese consul responded that the same logic might be used to burn down Malaya’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, should similar crimes occur there.2


  1. Creech Jones, 27 January 1949 quoted in Hansard, Village of Kachau (burning) – HC Deb 27 January 1949 vol 460 c183W accessed online on 17 December 2018 at url https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/written-answers/1949/jan/27/village-of-kachau-burning
  2. Cited in Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, Allen Lane, 2007, p. 449.

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