VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > G. South and Southeast Asia, 1914–1945 > 2. Southeast Asia > b. Peninsular and Island Southeast Asia
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1914, May 12)
b. Peninsular and Island Southeast Asia
1. The Malayan Archipelago
Peasant rebellion in Pasir Puteh district of Kelantan, although localized, panicked the British into thinking that the revolt was potentially widespread. The protest targeted the substitution by the British of a fixed land rent for an earlier tax on crop production. The uprising was led by To' Janggut (or Haji Mat Hassan), an elderly landowner and peddler who had the support of the territorial chief.  1
1920s and 1930s
Despite attempts by the British to isolate Malays in a stable village society, a nascent Malay nationalism began to appear, appealing first to religious, racial, and linguistic loyalties.  2
Three new elite groups fostered this nationalism. Those active in the Islamic-educated religious reform movement brought anticolonial ideas back from Egypt. They joined a Malay-educated intelligentsia (made up primarily of peasants who had been educated to become teachers, journalists, engineers, and the like) who espoused radical, secular ideals. In using a town-based vernacular press to put forward a Greater Indonesia ideology around Malay language and identity, these two elements of the new elite joined with a third group: those drawn from the traditional elite who had become English-educated in order to serve in the bureaucracy. This third group reacted especially to the local-born activists among the Chinese and Indian communities who were agitating for a greater share in governance and public life.  3
Periodic gatherings of (traditional Malay) rulers, begun as a token of the devolution of authority from the British to the states, became by the late 1930s occasions on which local rulers would take nationalistic positions—e.g., to encourage Javanese immigration and limit Chinese influx; to strengthen Malay landowning rights, etc.  4
Malayan Communist Party founded, almost wholly Chinese in composition (but with links to Indonesia and Vietnam).  5
Impact of economic depression began to undermine the concept of a plural society in Malaya, pitting economic and political interests of one group against another. (For example, Chinese and Indian workers, thrown out of mine and estate employment, sought to become agriculturalists, previously a niche occupied solely by Malays.)  6
Kesatuan Melayu Muda (Young Malay Union) formed by radicals as a new political organization with pan-Indonesian aims. Malay Associations were also organized within each state as organizations loyal to local rulers, conservative in outlook, and even supportive of British colonial rule; these served as a bulwark against more outspoken resistance to Western imperialism, and were the only organizations that had any mass support. The growth of a genuine Malay nationalism after the war drew on the ideology, structure, and leadership of the Malay Associations movement.  7
1941, Dec. 7
The Japanese attacked Malaya (See 1941, Dec. 7).  8
1942, Feb
Singapore fell to the Japanese. As the tide of war turned against them, the Japanese tried to enlist local leadership in support of their activities. They released persons like the Malay radical Ibrahim Yacob who had been imprisoned under the European colonial regimes.  9
1943, July
Four northern Malay states (Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu) were handed over to Thailand as a reward for its support of the Japanese.  10
1945, Sept
The British resumed control. (See Malaysia and Singapore)  11
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.