1940-1949 | Malaysia | Opium

War office plans to ensure supply of opium to Malaya after its liberation

Japanese troops surrender as the British reoccupy Singapore –
© IWM  (IND 4798)

18 April 1945

Today in 1945, in a memorandum from the British War Office to Allied Land Forces South East Asia (ALFSEA), instructions were issued to ensure that opium be supplied in vast quantities to Malaya once it was liberated from the Japanese, who had also found the drug essential to keep the population pacified. Ironically, Japan’s massive narcotrafficking operations were among the major charges at the Tokyo War Tribunal, but by November 1945, the reestablished British administration in Malaya had created its own monopoly to profit from the imported drug. Apart from the revenue advantages, it was considered to be a vital instrument of social control during the first months of the post-war administration, incentivising addicts to work long hours.  In fact, the April 1945 memorandum deemed that the continued supply of opium was so crucial that it was deemed a ‘military necessity’.1

FOOTNOTE

  1. War Office to ALFSEA, 18 April 1945 cited in Christopher Bayly and Timm Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, Allen Lane, London, 2007, pp. 105-6.

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