The Briggs Plan in Malaysia
The Nazi regime during the Second World War forever gave the term concentration camp a name symbolic of atrocity, so when the British once again visited the idea of forced relocation of indigenous peoples to isolate them they needed another name for the enclaves. They came up with New Villages. The New Villages were created under the Briggs Plan, which was developed to combat the communist insurgency in Malaya during the 1950 Malayan Emergency. The plan was prepared by Sir Harold Briggs, a British General who was the Director of Operations in Malaya.
Britain lost the Malayan Peninsula and their fortress at Singapore to the Japanese during the Second World War and reoccupied their former dominion after the fall of Japan. Among the many difficulties the British encountered was the presence of roughly a half-million Chinese in rural Malaya, most working as farmers working small plots of land for their own sustenance on land they did not own or lease. The British administration regarded these Chinese as squatters and found them a problem because they were physically distant from the machinery of British authority, which most of the Malayan population was not happy to see return to their country.
When the Malay Communist Party received support from armed guerrillas from Malaya and China, the British, intent on restoring Imperial rule to the peninsula, looked with additional distrust upon these rural Chinese. While some of the Chinese were certainly sympathetic to the communists, most were indifferent. The British concern was that the communist insurgents would receive support from the squatters in the form of food, neglecting the fact that the majority of the Chinese squatters were barely able to grow enough to support themselves. The Briggs plan required the forced relocation of the Chinese.
The New Villages isolated the Chinese, and they were guarded by Malayan police and British Military Police and some troops. The Chinese could not leave the villages except under escort and nobody was allowed in without the permission of the guards, making them effectively prisons. The villages were built with running water and electricity, amenities absent from most Malayan villages, and health care and some educational facilities were provided. This caused resentment towards the British from the Malay outside the villages, who didn’t receive the same amenities, and the Chinese, who resented the forced relocation settlement.
Although the New Villages, of which 450 were built, were an improvement over the forced detention camps of the Boer War, and death rates in the villages were roughly the same as for the rest of the country, there were racially motivated collective punishments directed towards the Chinese population in the villages. Deportation without trial by the administration was a common punishment for the Chinese. Law within the villages was the decision of the British. Many of the villages are still standing and in recent years have been restored to serve as tourist destinations by the Malaysian government with support from China.