Chinese influx in Malaysia part of ‘southbound invasion’, says historian

Puan Zaharah Sulaiman. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Puan Zaharah Sulaiman. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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PUTRAJAYA, Sept 28 — The influx of the Chinese into the Malay archipelago, including Malaysia, had been part of a “southbound invasion” from China towards Southeast Asia called “Nam Tien”, a historian claimed in a symposium today.

This “invasion”, backed by foreign Western powers at times, has since stripped the ancient Malay peoples of their riches and knowledge, causing their descendants to be inferior to other races despite being ostensibly one of the oldest civilisations in the world.

“All expertise have been lost with the peoples. Malays are called lazy and not innovative, but it’s because the knowledge, the peoples who have the knowledge have gone extinct,” Zaharah Sulaiman, a writer and historian from a society called Malaysia Archaeology Association, told a thousand-strong audience at the Facing Foreign Agenda Symposium (MEGA) here..

“Foreigners were jealous of us because of what Malays had, the expertise in mining gold and tin. Actually we were the best in it, the earliest in starting everything.

“When foreigners came to Tanah Melayu, they grabbed (our riches) and killed Malays, they took over our tin and gold mines. That is being left out in our history,” she added.

“Nam tien”, a Vietnamese term literally meaning “South march”, generally refers to a southward expansion of Vietnamese territory from its original heartland in the Red River Delta between the 11th and 18th century.

Zaharah was among several Malay Muslims speakers at the symposium on the theme of the “Malay Leadership Crisis”, which is jointly organised by Muslim NGOs, ISMA and Pembina, and is held at the Dewan Seri Siantan here.

In the first dialogue session this morning, the symposium discussed five threats against Muslim Malays, which it identified as Shiah teaching, an alleged “invasion” of the Chinese, free trade agreements and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), Americanisation, and Christianisation.

Zaharah also blamed Western invaders, particularly the colonial British, for helping these southbound Chinese immigrants grab land from the Malays, and gave as example the alleged award of land in Penang by British trader, Francis Light, to the Chinese.

Malays’ riches were then used to financially support the British conquest across the world, and later to fund Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s democratic revolution leading to the formation of the People’s Republic of China, she claimed.

The British had also restricted the Malays from attending schools and entering town during colonial times but not the Chinese and Indians, she said, suggesting that the move had caused Malays to be late bloomers and to generally adopt a lackadaisical attitude.

“We were only allowed to go to school in 1925, but only until Standard Four. But Chinese and Indians were allowed to attend schools starting from 1819. The gap was too far,” said Zaharah.

She also added that the Chinese had access to wealth much earlier than the Malays, and as such managed to expand their economy at a much faster rate.

According to Zaharah, the Cham people who had settled in ancient Champa, is where central Vietnam is located today, were ancient Malays who was then conquered by the Dai Viet who came from South China.

Similarly, the Funan Kingdom which is now part of Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, were also settled by ancient Malays before they were conquered by the Tai people, also from South China.

The Tai, Zaharah said, were the ancestors of the Thai people, who had then tried to conquer the Malay people in the Malay peninsula.

The Malays and Bumiputera make up the majority of Malaysia’s population at an estimated 67.4 per cent of the 28.3 million population, followed by the Chinese at 24.6 per cent, according to the most recent census at 2010.

The Chinese in Malaysia were mostly brought into Malaya from Southern China provinces such as Fujian and Guangdong by British colonists during 19th and 20th century to make up their workforce in the then booming tin mines and rubber plantations.

However, Chinese settlers have also been recorded as early as the 15th century during the spread of the Malacca Empire, which even then had formed friendly diplomatic relations.

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