Kampung Koh, Sitiawan, Perak

Kampung Koh is one of the original villages making up the sprawling settlement of Sitiawan, close to the town of Lumut and nearby to Pangkor Island.

Kg. Koh was founded in 1903 by a group of 360 Methodist Christian settlers from the Chinese province of Fujian who came to Malaya in search of better lives. They were led by two Chinese pastors – Rev. Lin Chen Mei and Rev. Dr. Huang Pau Seng – together with a German missionary called Rev. Dr. H.L. Luering.

Pioneer Methodist Church, Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

They built a church in 1905 at a cost of $900 which burnt down the following year. The current building (above) dates from 1927 and is known as the Pioneer Methodist Church.

Sitiawan Settlement Museum, Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

The church shares a compound with this 80 year old former parsonage which has been converted into the Sitiawan Settlement Museum, showcasing the heritage of the local Foochow community with photos and artefacts from those early pioneering days.

Old wells at Sitiawan Settlement Museum. 

There are some old wells in front of the museum and a plaque explains that the first well was dug by Dr. Shellabear who assisted Dr. Luering in setting up the settlement. These wells provided a continuous source of clean drinking water for the village up until the 1970’s when a piped water supply became available.

Methodist ACS at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Across the street is the Methodist Anglo Chinese School.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Next door to the church compound is Wat Sitawanaram, a Buddhist temple established by Thai Buddhist monks around 100 years ago. Since it was Wesak Day on the day of my visit the place was heaving with visitors.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

The main hall contains a large sitting Buddha statue with a smaller reclining Buddha below.

Donating Blood at Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Many devotees were doing their good deed for the day by donating blood.

Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, SitiawanWat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

Giant Incense Sticks at Wat Sitawanaram at Kampung Koh, Sitiawan

What else is Kampung Koh/Sitiawan famous for?

Chin PengChin Peng, leader of the Malayan Communist Party, was born here in 1924. Throughout the Emergency period he was a thorn in the side of the British and Malaysian authorities and his terrorist tactics were responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, police and military personnel.

Shophouses at Kampung Koh, SitiawanPerhaps the dreary wooden shophouses in the centre of town drove him to revolution.

Chin Peng died in exile in Thailand last year. There are no plans to bring his remains back to Sitiawan as far as we know.

Kampung Koh Chili Sauce

 

 

Of much more interest to most Malaysians, Kampung Koh is also famous for its delicious chili sauce, a staple ingredient in all local kitchens.

 

 

The town is also renowned for its seafood restaurants meaning that the area has considerable potential for gourmet tourists who want to refuel on the way to Pangkor Island.

 

 

Last but not least, Sitiawan has a very fine beach of its own, Teluk Batik, which you can read about on my Malaysia Traveller website.

Teluk Batik Beach

Gurney Assassination and the Punishment of Tras

Location of Sir Henry Gurney's murder

On 6th October 1951, on a lonely stretch of winding road between Kuala Lumpur and Fraser’s Hill, Sir Henry Gurney, the High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya was murdered by communist terrorists (CTs).

Sir Henry GurneyHe was travelling to Fraser’s Hill for a recreational visit in his Rolls Royce accompanied by his wife Lady Gurney, his private secretary D.J. Staples and his Malay driver. Since this was the time of the Malayan Emergency, he had an escort of a police Land Rover, a radio van and a Ford armoured car with a small hand operated turret and a Bren gun. Unfortunately the radio van broke down on the way and this delayed the armoured car by a few minutes. By the time the armoured car caught up with the Land Rover and Rolls Royce two miles from The Gap they had already been ambushed and Gurney was dead.

Sign marking the point where Sir Henry Gurney was killed.

This sign has been erected in the approximate location of the ambush.

The CTs had chosen their spot well and a group of 36 well armed men were lying in wait in prepared positions overlooking the road.  The Land Rover was hit first and then the Rolls. Sir Henry dashed out of the car, seemingly to draw fire away from his wife, and into a shallow ditch where he died. When the armoured car arrived on the scene, the CTs fled the scene after a brief fire fight. Five out of the nine policemen in the escort were wounded, as was the driver. Lady Gurney and Staples escaped unhurt.

Tombstone of Sir Henry Gurney at Cheras Road Christian Cemetery, Kuala Lumpur

Sir Henry’s grave at Cheras Road Christian Cemetery in KL.

Sir Henry Gurney's Rolls Royce at Penang Museum

The Rolls, after the bullet holes were patched up, was later used by the Governor of Penang. It is now on display outside the Penang Museum.

The CTs had been waiting for suitable targets in their ambush positions for 24 hours before Sir Henry’s convoy approached. The head of the Communist Party of Malaya, Chin Peng (who died of old age in Bangkok last month), confirmed in his memoires that the attack on Gurney had not been planned. Their aim was to strike a convoy to acquire weapons. They just ‘got lucky’ that Gurney happened to be passing.  With hindsight it was a turning point in the struggle.  British authorities were so shocked by the murder of their top official that they were galvanised into taking more drastic counter measures against the terrorists.

Tras New Village, 2013

Tras New Village, 2013

These measures were not long in coming. The following month, November 1951, the entire population of Tras, a small village seven miles from the ambush site, were rounded up onto lorries and sent to a detention camp in Ipoh, 150 miles away. The villagers (all Chinese) were suspected of giving material support to the CTs. Each person was allowed to take one shoulder pole with two baskets of possessions and leave everything else behind. At the detention camp they were interrogated and 37 people were arrested for possible involvement with the CTs. The rest were released in batches over the following months and years but they were forbidden from returning to Tras. Some found temporary homes in nearby villages while others sought help from relatives elsewhere. They were only allowed to return to Tras in 1958, after Independence, by which time Tras was an overgrown ghost town.

Tras New Village, 2013

I visited Tras a few months ago. There were no obvious scars from its traumatic past.

Kelab Kampung Baru Tras

In fact it was quite a cheerful, colourful place.

Colourful shophouses at Tras, Pahang

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