May 13, 1969 - the ghost that still haunts Malaysia

The bloody race riots continue to shape the political narrative 50 years on as communal-based power play takes on new forms

A soldier standing guard in Kuala Lumpur during the Malaysian race riots of May 13, 1969. Half a century has passed since that fateful day and conditions have changed dramatically, but beneath the "Malaysia, Truly Asia" image of a country that celebr
A soldier standing guard in Kuala Lumpur during the Malaysian race riots of May 13, 1969. Half a century has passed since that fateful day and conditions have changed dramatically, but beneath the "Malaysia, Truly Asia" image of a country that celebrates multiculturalism lies the arid reality of fragile relations between ethnic communities, say the writers. ST FILE PHOTO
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This week marks the 50th anniversary of one of the bloodiest chapters in Malaysian history - the race riots of May 13, 1969.

While the details of this unfortunate event remain classified, it is a national tragedy and constant reminder of the fragility of inter-communal relations between Malaysia's diverse ethnic groups still coming to terms with controversial episodes in their shared history.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline May 13, 1969 - the ghost that still haunts Malaysia. Subscribe