Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army

The Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) was a group of resistance fighters in Malaya, organised by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) to fight against the Japanese in Japanese-occupied Malaya.1 Well aware of the communist influence in MPAJA, the British were prepared to arm them as long as the MPAJA kept their objectives to purely military concerns.2 However, the communist-led fighters turned against the British after World War II.3 This led to the Malayan Emergency – a protracted war against communist guerrillas lasting until the 1950s.4

In May 1941, the British established the headquarters of Oriental Mission in Singapore to plan and operate subversive activities in enemy-held territories.5 The Chinese communists were one of the groups trained for such operations. Just before the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, communist members were advised to move into the jungle to escape. From their jungle camps, they harassed the Japanese Army as they awaited the return of the British to Singapore. Survivors of the European “left-behind parties” were later found together with the communists.6 Remnants of Dalforce (the Singapore Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Volunteer Army) also joined the group.7 By 1943, the resistance movement had become known as the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).8

The MPAJA had eight battalions comprising about 10,000 men in the jungles of the Malayan States.9 It had waged a guerrilla war against the Japanese Army throughout Malaya.10 About three months after their landing at Segari, Perak in May 1943, Force 136 made contact with the MPAJA.11

In December 1943, a treaty was signed between the British and the MPAJA. The treaty enabled members of MPAJA to be given military training and supplies, and serve under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Southeast Asia Command.12 After February 1945, more Force 136 groups were parachuted into Malaya to prepare for the Allied attack on the Japanese. The resistance forces were also readied,13 but the war came to an abrupt end when Japan surrendered unconditionally on 15 August 1945.14 This news was only announced in Singapore on 21 August 1945.15

Post-war history
After the surrender of the Japanese, the MPAJA came out of the jungles.16 It split with Force 136 and, under the leadership of the MCP, entered towns to fight for political power.17 Its political aim was to seek independence from British rule18 and establish a “Malayan people’s government”.19

Colonel John Davies negotiated with Chin Peng, representative of the MCP to demobilise the MPAJA.20 After two months of protracted negotiations, both parties accepted a compromise to disarm the MPAJA.21 With a name list supplied by the MCP, each MPAJA fighter was paid $350 as demobilisation allowance upon the surrender of his weapon.22 On 1 December 1945, the MPAJA fighters surrendered their weapons, and the MPAJA was disbanded.23 On 6 January 1946, at a victory parade at the Padang in front of the Municipal Building (now known as City Hall), Chin received British campaign medals from Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, Commander-in-Chief of the Southeast Asia Command.24

In May 1948, the majority of leading communists left Singapore for the Federation of Malaya and the former MPAJA was revived by the MCP to fight against British rule. Acts of violence in May and June that same year led to a declaration of a state of Emergency in the Federation of Malaya and later in Singapore. The Malayan Emergency, an undeclared war against the MPAJA, the armed organisation of the MCP, lasted 12 years.25


Wong Heng

1. Tan Beng Luan and Irene Quah, The Japanese Occupation 1942–1945: A Pictorial Rrecord of Singapore During the War (Singapore: Times Edition, 1996), 164–166, 168. (Call no.: RSING 940.5425 TAN); Tan Chong Tee, Force 136: Story of a WWII Resistance Fighter, and trans. Lee Watt Sim and Clara Show (Singapore: Asiapac Books, 1995), 311. (Call no. RSING 940.54865951 TAN); Ian Ward, The Killer They Called a God (Singapore: Media Masters, 1992), 219. (Call no. RSING 959.57023 WAR-[HIS])
2. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 167.
3. Ward, Killer They Called a God, 220.
4. Constance Mary Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1988 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), 233. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]) 
5. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 164–165.
6. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 165.
7. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 1819–1988, 191.  
8. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 165.
9. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 170; Tan, Force 136, 311.
10. Ward, Killer They Called a God, 219; Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 165.
11. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 170.
12. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 169.
13. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 170.
14. The Price of Peace: True Accounts of the Japanese Occupation, comp. and ed. Foong Choon Hon (Singapore: Asiapac, 1997), 37, 116. (Call no. RSING 959.57 PRI-[HIS])
15. Romen Bose, “The Real Japanese Surrender,” Straits Times, 4 September 2005, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Tan, Force 136, 312.
17. Tan, Force 136, 312, 313.
18. Tan, Force 136, 313.
19. Tan, Force 136, 310.
20. Tan, Force 136, 310, 313.
21. Tan, Force 136, 314.
22. Tan, Force 136, 314–15.
23. Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 181.
24. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 1819–1988, 223; Tan and Quah, Japanese Occupation 1942–1945, 182.
25. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 1819–1988, 233

The information in this article is valid as at 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


Malaya--History--Malayan Emergency, 1948-1960
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Anti-imperialist movements--Singapore