Lai Teck : biography
Lai Teck was a leader of the Communist Party of Malaya and Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army. A Vietnamese of mixed Sino-Vietnamese descent, Lai Teck was known to have reached Malaya and Singapore in 1934 and joined the Malayan Communist Party and became its Secretary-General in 1938.
Lai Teck was a shadowy character whose real name and background are unknown. According to his successor, Chin Peng:
- He curiously chose the party alias 'Wright' which, given the Chinese pronunciation of English words beginning with the letter 'r' soon became distorted to Lai Te. This was further mangled, depending on who was writing or speaking English, to 'Loi Teck', 'Lai Teck' and 'Lighter'.Chin Peng, My Side of History, as told to Ian Ward and Norman Miraflor, Media Masters, Singapore, 2003, p 58.
By some accounts, Lai Teck had served the French as a spy in Indo-China but been uncovered. It was subsequently alleged that he was recruited by the British security services and brought to Singapore to infiltrate the CPM. At this he was highly successful, and by using the British police to pick off his rivals within the Party he rose through the hierarchy and attained the Party leadership (Secretary General) in April 1939. Perhaps because of this, he steered the Party on a course of non-confrontation with the British and wholly embraced the Communist International's new line of cooperation with the United States and the Western European powers against Nazi Germany and Japan.
Although many of the CPM's top personnel managed to flee Singapore before it fell, Lai Teck did not and was picked up in a Japanese sweep shortly after. Although most communists were executed by the Japanese, Lai Teck walked free a few days later. Based on later evidence, including documents in Japanese archives, it now appears most likely that Lai Teck saved his life by promising to act as a Japanese agent.
On 1 September 1942, more than 100 senior CPM and MPAJA members gathered at the Batu Caves just north of Kuala Lumpur for a secret conference. The Japanese, however, had been tipped off and staged a surprise raid at dawn. In the ensuing lopsided skirmish most of the CPM and MPAJA high command were destroyed. Lai Teck, who should have been at the meeting, wasn't. Subsequently he claimed that he had been unable to attend because his car broke down.
In 1946, faint rumors which had been circulating within the party about disloyalty on the part of Lai Teck began to receive more substantiation. This was exacerbated by the restlessness of the rank and file, especially the younger members, who favoured radical action. Lai Teck was removed from some sensitive posts, and an investigation was begun into his activities. A full meeting of the Central Executive Committee was scheduled for 6 March 1947 at which the complaints against Lai Teck were to be aired in his presence. Lai Teck did not attend but instead absconded with the bulk of the Party's funds, hiding first in Singapore, then going to Hong Kong and later Thailand.
With Lai Teck gone, the party elected a new leader, Chin Peng.
According to Chin Peng, Lai Teck was killed in Bangkok some time in 1947 when Thai Communists tried to capture him.Chin Peng, My Side of History, pp 189-190.
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