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The story behind the publishing of “May 13” May 11, 2007

Posted by elizabethwong in History, Malaysia, Politics, Race Relations.


“The May 13 was a pretext for staging that coup… I am not the first person who said it was a coup d’etat but I am providing the documents to show how it was a coup d’etat.” (11 May 2007, “Unveiling the ‘May 13’ riots”, Malaysiakini.com)

There is a tiny story behind the ‘making-of’ Dr. Kua Kia Soong’s latest book “May 13”.

It almost didn’t go to print.

The manuscript was ready early in the year.

Everyone was lined up, from publisher to printer, lawyers to proof-readers.

Then Kua was informed that the publisher decided to pull out. So did the printer.

“What if something happens to us? We are only a small publisher…”

No one should even think of blaming them as their fears are real.

As real as seeing a keris brandished in the air during the ruling party’s annual assembly, the very weapon which the then Youth chief of Umno threatened to “bathe it in Chinese blood” twenty years ago.

As real as helping your parents stock up tinned food, water and rice during a number of political flashpoints.

So there we were scratching our heads, wondering who else in this city would want to touch such a ‘hot-potato’, then Dr. Kua asked us over the email, “Would Suaram consider publishing it?”

The ‘ayes‘ from the Secretariat were unanimous. And so here it is.


“May 13” isn’t another fashionable pomo attempt at rewriting history. I can’t speak for Dr. Kua or the rest of the Secretariat, but there is such a thing as objective truth.

The Barisan Nasional have kept the public in check for close to 4 decades, by reminding us that anything can happen to *you*.

Even as recent as during the Ijok by-election, certain party workers employed “May 13” as their clincher during the last days of campaigning, targetting elderly Chinese folks of Pekan Ijok and Batang Berjuntai.

How much longer can we sit by the sidelines? How much longer do we allow ourselves to be held hostage?

Over the past years, there’s been an increasing bambification of race relations and a false sense of nostalgia – that ‘in the past’ (insert: – 1950s/ 1960s/1970s/ 1980s), we were a bunch of happy-shiny-people-holding-hands; and that by sampling each other’s food, going to national schools or national service, and remolding oneself to become trendy liberal cosmopolitans, we will be able to face the brave new world.

Perhaps that’s possible, in an alternate universe of unicorns and giant dragonflies, but not here.

There is a need to reconcile with the past and to change the present trajectory politics governs our national psyche, our economy and our identities.

“May 13” is only a starting point. No person in Suaram is deluded to believe that the book itself will change the course of history.

But the idea of a truly non-racial society in Malaysia has never been buried. Ideas can change the way people think. Ideas create hope. Ideas and hope are eternal. The question isn’t ‘how’, but ‘when’.

And real power lies ultimately in the hands of the rakyat to chart a new course for the nation and to make history.

(So please do come for the launch and the forum; buy copies of this book to pass around; make a donation so that we can translate and print more copies!)

Updated 14 May 2007


1. hasilox - May 11, 2007

How many bookshop willing to carry this title?
Can buy online?

2. Gua Bay Song - May 11, 2007


*now if only I know how to link this to my blog*

3. lawren - May 11, 2007

racial issues is very much alive. the recent maybank policy regarding law firms is a fiasco. sad and disappointed we still have corporate leaders who have such mentality.

4. LOne - May 11, 2007

The truth cannot be forever hidden. The untruth is always scary. Only the truth can set one free.

All truth loving ones should contribute to the truth. That the least one can do.

Our first among equals is so truth loving, surely he can contribute.

5. monsterball - May 11, 2007

Will buy the book and I have very high regards for the author..Dr. Kua Kia Soong. Have been following his many letters published at papers for years.

6. liong - May 11, 2007

Dr. Kua has confirmed what I knew all along but no one except those involved in the historic May 10th election (Custers Last Stand?) as I was,would believe- the notion of a coup-de-tat as the writer so eloquently puts it was too far fetched in the hurly-burly of curfews(I,ve been caught in a few and broke a few too) and rumour mongering in the last two weeks in May 1969.After 4 decades,th
idea of a Malaysian Malaysia is still a deeply cherished idea in my household now spread throughout the world all-be-it in those countries develpoed enough to truly understand the meaning of equality,fraternity and liberty.
I came back to witness the Ijok by-election near a constituency I used to know.The struggle is the same.Only the players are different.I could almost imagine Hishamuddin playing the part of Harun Idris and Khairy Jammaluddin playing Suhaimi Kammaruddin.The only difference-now there is Anwar Ibrahim and Khalid Ibrahim instead of Lim Kit Siang and Goh Hock Guan.But are they really struggling for a Malaysian Malaysia!?
Looking forward to the book

7. GoofyChinese - May 11, 2007

Congratulation Dr. Kua for publishing the declassified details of the MAY 13. I will definitely get a copy to read and also to pass it around. I am sure I will learn a thing or two here from the truth of what really happened. I was only 10 years old when May 13 happened. I still remember that we are give empty kerosene tin to beat if there is an attack to our village. Just beside is a Malay Kampong. I am glad that nothing happens between the Chinese village and Malay kampong. I hope from your book, it will take away fears of the Chinese or Malay that a recurrance of May 13 will happen. Now, our Malay brethens should know who actually started the riot back then.

8. bique - May 11, 2007

for a long time, we know the official version of the “may-13” was factually wrong as it blamed the communists becos my late dad was a witness too. looking forward to getting a copy. but please be warned of the seizure of the books on the eve of the launch by some authorities.

9. elizabethwong - May 12, 2007

To all who have inquired about where to get this book:-

The book will be available on the internet via http://kinibooks.com and http://gerakbudaya.com

It should available in all *fine* bookstores in the country. You can ask them to order if you can’t find it, presumably it’s sold out :). Otherwise that bookshop of yours ain’t ‘fine’!

You may also purchase it from Suaram. Tel: 03-7784 3525 or email: suaram@suaram.net

Bique:- Why would the authorities seize it? It’s not banned. But If they do turn up to take copies, they’ll have to pay for them, like anyone else. No special favours.

10. mob1900 - May 12, 2007

“Malays, Chinese and Indians don’t suddenly decide to fight in conflict, it doesn’t happen like that,” he said.

At the top of the atrocity, you could always find it’s the Politikus which orchestrate these black events in history. May13 is not our ‘Common Ground’, it’s just some mofor trying to wrestle power no matter the consequences.

11. monsterball - May 12, 2007

I lived in Setapak Garden, Gombak Road and we Chinese fought the malays burning chinese houses for a month! They were equipped with parangs and assisted by the military with sten guns. We were armed with bamboo sticks only…yet when they came out..even during curfew hours..we were not afraid to come out too. they ran whenever seeing us.
It was when announced by loudspeakers…that the pengkulu will throw a durian party at the Lee Rubber Estate compound..that our chinese eldest advised us all to go. Harun ….the hypocrite who stared it all….spoked and the the crying pengkulu spoke with much love and affections for all races.
I had to rushed back from Batu Pahat with few friends in several cars. although fightings were concentrated at KL only…faces of hatreds with foul mouths young malays armed with stones at their hands were seen everywhere. we made few stopovers…as they were curfews. Few miles before reaching Melaka…I was stoned by more than a dozen malays. Luckily it was a a straight road…I ducked and my side glass door was all smashed up!! Then a group of Chinese rushed out to escort me to two hundred yards away and told me to drive safely home.
Reaching my house…I was all ready to die to protect chinese houses being burn up. we never burn back malay houses. We were after those culprits…but they were cowards…assisted by military people. And until the Sarawak Rangers came and was fair …to all…peace was seem coming back slowly.

12. Top Posts « WordPress.com - May 12, 2007

[…] The story behind the publishing of “May 13″ [image] “The May 13 was a pretext for staging that coup… I am not the first person who said it was a coup […] […]

13. May 13th - Book Launch & Public Forum « { w a s t e d t a l e n t } - May 12, 2007

[…] For more information: Ms. Enalini Dewi Ellumalai : +60 3 77843525 Suaram : Web | Email The story behind the book. […]

14. Salleh RAHMAN - May 12, 2007

Razak, Harun Idris and Mahathir have much to answer for the pain and suffering during May the 13th
They will pay for their sins for the truth must prevail

15. mob1900 - May 12, 2007

you should start blogging, it is the new way to ‘Bomb Da System’, i sensed there’s still ‘Rebel’ fire in you! I’m sure there are haters out there that hates every fiber in your being but you will have many readers out there who thinks otherwise. C’mon!

16. marcus - May 13, 2007

Wow. I look forward to getting my mitts on this!

17. monsterball - May 13, 2007

Thanks but no. I feel at home as a commenter.
Who am I to Sheih’s kickdefella site?
I am not a rebel. I speak my mind out without fear nor favour and I do not belong to any party…and my vote is not for sale.
I am free as a bird…hahahaha
Me blog owner…are you nuts?
You just wished me happy birthday at Sheih’s site. How many commenters get a special photo put out by Sheih…not once…but few times….and wattahack got caught with the fun and made one of me an big dog…you saw that too. I am enjoying the love I have from all of you blog owners…why change?
Take care mob1900.

18. monsterball - May 13, 2007

mob1900…went to your site and read your details on ‘Bomb Da System” concept…very nice idea..but not practical.
I just want you to remember..you are the first calling me a patriot long long ago..remember? I still am..not a rebel.
Have a nice day!

19. Antares - May 13, 2007

May 13… September 11… July 7… Friday 13… what, are we to be dictated to by superstitions conjured by crafty old sorcerers? Bravo, Kua… Bravo, Suaram! Sorry, couldn’t make it physically to the launch but I’d sure like a copy for my archives.

20. Micky - May 13, 2007

The last few days, reading about the launch of Dr Kua’s book, has been troubling….. brings back memories better not to be remembered, yet not to be forgotten either. Having to recall escaping the parang wielding mobs on both sides of Hale Road , and having to avoid burning vehicles about 7:00pm coming out from the Sultan Sulaiman Club padang is still painful. Never mind my personal recollections, but it is near impossible not to still feel anger. In an odd sort of way I am lucky for being just only a 15-yr old in ’69 – had I been a year or two older, I would have been earlier drafted into the neighbourhood gang, and would have had to do duty to defend the village. If caught, such gangs would’ve been included in the numbers for “members of secret societies”. Pity, they were not described as heroes that they in fact were, in defence of many Chinese settlements. And living for months on the terraces at Chinwoo was not much fun either, but in the circumstances, can’t complain at all.

Yet now even after 39 years, the government, specifically some UMNO hotheads including its Deputy Chairman, Youth Chief and Deputy, still finds it “cool” to continually remind us non-Malay Malaysians.

Can we ever exorcise the ghost of May 13? I say, with the likes of the leaders we have, Never Ever will it be banished. Why would UMNO ever do away with such a “useful” weapon to be unsheathed whenever its hold on power is threatened, internally or externally? If it is to happen again (God forbid!) the damage will be greater, and the prospects for a recovery will be near zero.

21. Sivin Kit’s Garden » May 13 - Not forgotten … - May 14, 2007

[…] The story behind the publishing of May13″ […]

22. Mat Salo - May 14, 2007

‘…Can we ever exorcise the ghost of May 13? I say, with the likes of the leaders we have, Never Ever will it be banished. Why would UMNO ever do away with such a “useful” weapon …’

Dear Micky,

I am sick to heart of some UMNO leaders still using the chinese as a “bogeyman”. I am in agreement, the present crop of leaders are shallow, and bereft of any intellectualism whatsoever. Therefore they often revert to the good ‘ol standby; the spectre of May 13. Every society needs a “bogeyman” to rally its subjects, and ours is no different – especially with raced-based politics. Interestingly, some say the word “bogey” was a corruption of the Old English “Bugis” – the Mad Natives prevalent in South Sulawesi. In old English villages, mothers would deter their children from playing after dark with the cry, ‘Get inside, or the bogeyman will get you!’

I should know, my ancestors were one of them – as did RPK’s and even the DPM’s…

But you are right, this needs to be out in the open, so they can see the folly if their ways…

My appreciation to all in SUARAM, Dr. Kua, and all Concerned Malaysians…

23. leotheonlyone - May 14, 2007

Hi Elizabeth, I cannot seem to find the book on the net through the links you gave, maybe it’s the way I was searching for it. Is there any other local online bookstores selling this? Sorry for the inconvenience.

24. elizabeth wong - May 14, 2007

[…] Posts The story behind the publishing of “May 13″Vulgarities in the HouseBook Launch and Public Forum: “May 13″Sexist MPsA wedding and a funeralThe […]

25. Scott Thong - May 15, 2007

Wah… Reading your list of ‘as real as’ fears, I realize that I’m not alone in coming to that conclusion…

26. Overseas Malaysian - May 17, 2007

Any chance this book being made available on amazon.com? Dr. Kua already has a few of his books listed there.

27. The I’mPerfect Mom » Something wicked this way comes - May 20, 2007

[…] article on May 13: Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969, the book that may change the lives of the Malaysian reading public – and Malaysians – […]

28. Darren - May 21, 2007

Just to let everone who are trying to buy this book… Last week went to MPH to purchase the book. To my surprise, the book is sold out! So, their friendly customer service gave me a paper to write down my name and contact no, telling me that they are replenishing the stock and will arrive on Monday 21 May.
Just got a call from MPH and was told they are not longer allowed to sell the book anymore. 😦 So, what the heck is happening here? Dont tell me, we youngster trying to understand the whole May 13 situation is being barred from doing so!?
Please tell me where to obtain the book. This situation has made me even want to get hold of the precious book.

EW: Dear Darren – yes, I’ve been getting some calls regarding this. This flip-flopping is exasperating and a waste of everyone’s time. It’s apparently clearer now that a MCA minister’s words have no value. We’ll try to sort this out by tomorrow. I’m really irritated by all this.

29. Raja - May 21, 2007

Why is the cover of the book in blood red? If Dr. Kua wants his readers to regard his work as an objective analysis of the events between May 13 and May 15th 1969 , as an academic exercise then the title should not just say “May 13” and have red as its background.
The events between May 13 and May 15 have come to mean different things to different people depending on which side of the political divide you fall. This book is just another book written about the race riots rather than on the race riots.
It’s release is timed to take advantage of the interest generated by race issues in the run up to next year’s general elections. The author is clearly motivated by pecuniary interests.
The title too is misleading. It is meant to mislead the unsuspecting public into thinking that the work has been made possible as a result of declassification of sensitive government material on the subject.
Yes, there are new sources – foreign and non-governmental and, therefore, hearsay.

EW: Why red? Because red is the new black lar.

30. A Response To ‘May 13’: Oh For God Sake! Have A Slightly Longer Memory « The Naked Truth - May 21, 2007

[…] So why would I be in Spain again? Here’s why: It is miserable and maddening that many conveniently jump to the conclusion that ‘May 13’ is the bible that bestows true historic account of what actually transpired and what aroused such racial riot in 1969. Well, here’s my version which I believe the writer expediently ‘forgot’ to include – or perhaps it was premeditated. Hmmm… […]

31. SA Omar - May 30, 2007

Dear Liz,

I write to express my own feeling about May 13. Then I was at a college in PJ, barely 16 years old. I am a Malay, from kampung far away from Kuala Lumpur and travelled to KL then using trains, the only available public transport that time.

On the evening of May 11 1969, rumours were spreading that Perikatan (MCA, UMNO and MIC) was loosing badly in the 1969 General Election and that Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Ipoh were about to fall to the opposition parties hand.

With great jubilant the opposition party members from Gerakan and the lots, comprising mostly Chinese and Indian celebrated the winning in large scale of provocation. They went into Kampung Baru with huge broom to sweep all Malays back to kampungs and yelled out to all Malays with thier anti-malays slogans.

The next day, a few Chinese members killed a Malay army officer and his fiance at Federal Cinema.

On the third day, on May 13, the Malay stroke back. The casualities were high on the Chinese members with the lost of life and properties. There were lorries carrying thousands Malays from kampungs who came in into Kuala Lumpur to retaliate further and assist own countrymen. But they were stopped. If they were not stopped there were more casualities.

I went home on the next seven days from May 13 during the curfew time and saved.

There were also Chinese guys in the trains while travelling home, but we shared a fair bread that I had. We never talked about the things that went wrong in Kuala Lumpur during the train ride but when reaching Kota Bharu he spoke with Kelantan dailect and said he won’t go back to Kuala Lumpur ever again and like to live in Kelantan.

I agree that I felt nothing wrong with him and why I should kill him just like the Chinese guys killed the army officer. Now I realised that the reason I like him and never hate him during our train ride was that he is really a local man, he knews my own dialect, never speak a word of mandarin even with his friend during the travel, instead he was Kelantanse Chinese. We would fight for him if he was treatened. That is what we are, the Kelantan folks.

Sorry about my Kelantanse English.

Thank you.

32. SA Omar - May 31, 2007

Buying the book, no lah, no money lah, must pay toll fees and minyak.

After all, I can get all information about the incident from the police records at Kuala Lumpur.

33. Mushin - June 4, 2007

Looking back at how the ruling MP’s behaved themselves especially during the UMNO assembly, I have advise my family members and friends to vote ‘wisely’ for the coming general election, if you know what i mean.

34. Adely Mahyuddin - June 9, 2007

As long as we grouped ourselves as malay, chinese, indian and “lain-lain”, we would not know the truth…. As long as we dwell in being a muslim, christiant, budddist etc, we will not move forward…
The so-called peace and harmony that we are enjoying now is not well cemented into our very heart and soul. It’s a state of fear created by UMNO and its cadre.
if finding the truth tears our heart apart and re-instill hatred, then let by-gone be by-gone, but let us start building a nation, made for Malaysians, governed by Malaysians and lived by Malaysians in a well cemented peace and harmony coming from a sincere heart.
Let start with breaking the 2/3 majority…..

p/s i am a malay muslim, and i cant bloody erase “Islam” from my IC.

35. Glad to be non Malaysian - June 11, 2007

For all of you that are Malaysians, Dr. Mahathir ( the ex-Prime Minister), was the Education Minister of Malaysia in 1973. Majority of the schools in Malaysia with a high percentage of chinese attending students failed their malay subjcect in the MCE exam. This is no coincidence to stifle and stop the progress of the Chinese people by the government. The race riots should not come as a a surprise that it is politically orchestratred. Neither should the year 1973 be a shock for all the chinese students from the top schools, plus schools with high chinese enrolment students having a greater that 70% failure rate in Malay in their MCE exam. This is the legacy that Dr. Mahathir will have left for all of us Chinese in the year 1973.
How can the country ever have Malaysian Unity unless Equity is practised by the governing body? Priveledges for one race has gone on for too long. It is time for the government to do the right thing and have a fair playing field.
Otherwise the educated Chinese are all leaving the country and the laboured Indonesians are all being welcome into Malaysia.
The Chinese statistics leaving the country should be a wake up call for the government. Let us not be ‘Malaysia Bodoh’.

36. SilentElegance - June 28, 2007

Thge May13th was a wake up call to the True malaysians- who sadly lost the game after this day.I recall living in the far North, Kulim, how all lived togther despite the riots in KL.One day , three days later , the police enforced a half hearted curfew.

The Chinese were slauthered by unfair means.The opposition did get excited, but certain members the ultra so called nationalist bumiputra politicians hijacked the moment and led the call for the blood bath-there is no doubt about that.But as quickly as that sanity prevailed, but the malaysians lost, and extremists found an excuse to implement one sided privileges, somehow all the taxes from the malaysians were not haram at all to offer free partnerships to the lazy people.Sadly malaysia CREATED this lazy band of class to use them for future politics, when ever the UPPER bumis felt threatened.
Why can we not all have had one system, where we helped all irrespective of race or religion and presented a humane face of the malaysian society, encompassing all people.
I have been told by reliable senior officers, who have since left the country, that the TRUTH will never be divulged by the Government nor admitted by UMNO ever.The blood of innocents, children and will stay as black mark upon the politicians of Malaysia who orchestrated this evil,lowly in human act,and topday call for eqaulity in the middle east.Please see just how equal are we in our own country for which even today, I will die fighting for , irrespective of my own religion, before you mind others business.

37. Stamp - June 28, 2007

The author relied heavily on the declassified documents that the Brits never confirmed that they had verified the documents. I wonder whether the Brit Govt issued a disclaimer on those declassified documents?

Did the author verify the documents with other independent sources? I couldnt find any evidence in the book that the author had done that.

Until he does that, I consider his book as his opinions only and not facts. Hearsay?

38. SilentElegance - June 29, 2007

STAMP says :-“The author relied heavily on the declassified documents that the Brits never confirmed that they had verified the documents. I wonder whether the Brit Govt issued a disclaimer on those declassified documents?”

The British Government offically does not hold documents or records of the Black May 13th Incident;any records that may be authentic[unless altered by the government of the day]could only be with the Malaysian authorities.The british had long left the country by then.

Only independent records from the foreign press, including the British correspondents could be available from the relevant press offices, to verify any of the incidents or information.

I believe even then NOT ALL the authentic information could be ascertained as the Government had at once curtailed the free movement of All JOURNALISTS.The news flow were also heavily censured.

I have heard some heart peircing accounts of the one sided slaughters that took place from witnesses , who were in senior government services at that times; and have since left the country.

It was very painful even listening to those accounts after so many years.

A Black mark upon UMNO and the criminal gang of 8.The opposition was wrong in insulting other Malaysians, BUT the cold blooded killings by these other Malaysians was the lowest evility of an obsessed people drowned in fanaticism of religious poison against the rest of the Malaysians.

39. Air and Water - July 1, 2007

It is absolutely sad to learn about the riots occurred for the past decades. Most of them were simply unnecessary.

For centuries, people were living harmoniously without much grudges until someone ignite unnecessary sparks. The purpose, well mainly on their own selfish agendas.

Like it or not, the damages had had been done since. It is no longer NEP nor questions on religions and royalties. It is more on some selfish folks with their own selfish agendas.

Some were questions on the construction of bonmbastic buildings and some on luxiarious banquets. Some were questions on new townships, Administration Centres, Privatization of Companies and etc. etc…Above it all, well , the buildings that “leak”.

There are many good people around our society. However, I am rather concern should there be the similar riots occur again… will there still be fellow countrymen (a.k.a. Malaysian regardless colour and decend) will ever help… especially when I am a Malaysian Chinese?

May the true be reviewed. Let it be the provokes made by the oposition or the coup by some politicians. Please do let us know. Let us learn from our past mistakes. Let us make a brighter future. Let the ghosts of May 13 rest in peace… for good.

40. ferryman2393 - October 4, 2007

i bought the book out of curiosity, locally in full view of the public in a well known bookstore. and i still have the official receipt to show proof of it.

i think the average reader should be aware that the publication is an attempt to paint the event as a coup d etat and expose the alleged ‘plotters’.

i don’t think it is an objective assessment of the event, rather a compilation of a selection of ‘official documents’ of which i have this uneasy feeling that they were conveniently vetted and chosen to make the grade.

well….at least try to look at it from outside the box. whatever….

41. keris man - May 16, 2008

all comments, stories and opinion, to portray muslim-malay, as the villain who bent on killing the chinese, of course, most of the commentors and the owner of this blog themselves are descendands of communists, and secret society gangster whose agenda is to push the malay back too jungle so they can conquer this blessed country and turn it to another china or singapore.

Tak payahlah nak berpura-pura sebut pasal multi culturalism lah, say no to race based politics lah, equality lah, justice lah, we malay-muslim always know, if ur race hold the power, u will show ur true colour and become 10 times more rascist than us, just look at singapore (what happend to the malay there, they are just expandable people), We just know what lies in ur heart against .
Dont u think that we dont know what u are thinking about us behind ur savage slant eyes.

Kenapa hanya nak membicarakan pasal 13 mei 1969 sahaja, why dont the author also discussed about event on 10,11,12 of may 1969 (U know what i mean). In that rowdy procession, in those procession, chinese not just insult us, but they also beat our people, insult and try to molest our girl, and there are some murder occur,
(remeber the case of army officer and his fiancee, also murder of an UMNO member in penang in April)

Why dont u talk also about the brutality and atrocities than had been inflicted by the chinese communist to muslim immeddiately after japanese surrender (most tragic event occur in a villlage in perak, where 72 muslim villagers were slaughtered by these infidel), But of course the muslim hit back with ferocities and avenge hte death of their comrade.

U know why i told u about this post war riot, because that is the time when the malay lost trust towards chinese and began to hate u.
Racism is not good but some time small degree of racism need to be aplly to ensure our survivalities, especially when we deal with a cunning people like u.

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