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

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'. Print Edition | Subscribe