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Britain rejects massacre inquiry: Malaysian activists

Malaysian activists said Britain has rejected their petition for an inquiry into the 1948 massacre of unarmed villagers by British troops.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2009 15:18 IST

Malaysian activists said on Friday Britain has rejected their petition for an inquiry into the 1948 massacre of unarmed villagers by British troops.

The activists last year demanded an official probe into the killings which occurred at the start of a crackdown against a communist insurgency when Malaysia, then known as Malaya, was under British rule.

The "Batang Kali massacre" occurred in a village in central Selangor state on December 12, 1948, when 14 members of the Scots Guards killed 24 ethnic Chinese and torched their village.

Activist coordinator Quek Ngee Meng said the British High Commission had written a letter ruling out a new investigation, citing two prior inquiries that had found insufficient evidence to prosecute and a lack of fresh evidence.

"We are absolutely disappointed with this decision," Quek told reporters.

"The earlier investigations were of a criminal nature but we are not asking for criminal prosecutions as it has been over 60 years. All we want is an inquiry to determine the true facts, an apology, compensation and a memorial to the victims."

Quek, whose father lives in Batang Kali, is the leader of an "action committee" made up of activists, politicians and relatives of the victims which has taken up the cause in recent years.

Quek said the victims' families would write to the British government to ask it to reconsider, before taking legal action to force an inquiry.

He said the shooting had been explained away in 1948 with the then Malayan attorney general saying an inquiry had been held and the troops vindicated, although no trace of this investigation has been found.

The massacre remained forgotten until Britain's People newspaper in 1970 ran an explosive account of the killings, publishing sworn affidavits by several soldiers involved who admitted the villagers were shot in cold blood.

The revelations provoked uproar in Britain but a promised investigation was later dropped after a change in government.

An official with the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur confirmed that the demand for an investigation had been rejected but declined further comment.

The guerrilla war left thousands dead and formally ended only in 1989 with the signing of a peace treaty with the Malayan Communist Party.