The Malayan Emergency in Retrospect

Organization of a Successful Counterinsurgency Effort

by Robert W. Komer

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Abstract

Case study of the Malayan counterinsurgency experience from 1948 to 1960, focusing on the policy and strategy of the British and Malayan governments. The manner in which the United Kingdom and the Government of Malaya, learning from their mistakes, gradually evolved a mixed civil, police, military, and psychological counterinsurgency strategy against the Communist threat offers lessons of wide applicability. Primary emphasis was on breaking the guerrillas' links to their popular base. Among the many innovations introduced were the widely publicized reward-for-surrender programs, imaginative exploitation of surrendered insurgents, use of police jungle squads, and food denial operations. By using local civil and police resources as much as possible, plus effective administration and unified management, the British and Malayans generated a remarkably low-cost, though long-haul, counterinsurgency response with maximum use of available assets. It took 12 years, but the costs were under $800 million, the majority of which was funded from Malaya's own tin and rubber export revenues.

This research is supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency. Views or conclusions contained in this study should not be interpreted as representing the official opinion of Rand or of ARPA.

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