August 22, 2014

Bekenu and Brunei Rebellion

This post is dedicated to my friend Rose Lim and her father.

In Dec 1962, there were only 2 police men guarding the whole town of Bekenu which had a population of about 300 people, and amongst them were some Government Servants, a few teachers, and 50 or so Chinese shopkeepers. The farmers and fishermen lived in the surrounding kampongs.

The District Office ( then as it is today ) occupies a strategic position on a hill overlooking the Sibuti River. It is considered "behind the Bekenu Bazaar". It has some jetties where were rather busy with people coming by boat , to and fro the little bazaar set up by the British way back in the 1920s. Today it is very much a plantation town with restaurants, coffee shops and supply shops.

Post Office of Bekenu, Sibuti
A rice mill owned by a Chinese family is opposite the fish market and meat market.

When the Brunei Rebellion (December 1962) was staged in Brunei and Limbang, a small group instructed by Azahari were to take Miri and Bekenu simultaneously. Miri was not easy to over come.

Chinese Rice Mill and Supply Shop
And this is the story of how Bekenu was "taken" by the rebels. I have collected this story from interviews with local people.

December 1962. On that day, there were only two police men in the District Office. When the rebels arrived, no one actually took notice of them because they were "their own people" and they did not look like rebels at all.

The two policemen were quickly overcome and tied up. The Lands and Survey staff with only a Chinese man, Mr. Lim, in charge was also "taken". Mr. Lim was asked to surrender his gun (he was a surveyor) and he was given a "card" so that he could move around. The other officers were given warning and not to move about freely. Thus the few Government Officers were "controlled" and in a way they were under "surveillance" until further notice.

In this way, Bekenu town was under the control of the rebels for a few days.

This correlates with the story from the Telegraph ,
12:01AM GMT 29 Jan 2007,  below : Re:General Sir David Mostyn.  Enjoy!!

General Sir David Mostyn, who has died aged 78, was Adjutant-General from 1986 to 1988; as a young officer in the Green Jackets he played an important role in suppressing a rebellion in Brunei.
In December 1962 an insurrection broke out in the British Protectorate of Brunei, and 1st Green Jackets (1GJ), based at Penang, Malaya, moved at short notice to Singapore and embarked in the cruiser, Tiger. The ship was designed to accommodate no more than 400 troops, and, as the last of the 619 men filed on board, the captain was heard to exclaim: "For God's sake, let's sail before we sink!"
Off Sarawak, new orders arrived. Part of the force was to be off-loaded on the coast at Miri, a town which had no deep-water port. Mostyn, then a major in command of "B" Company, had to requisition a number of former landing craft from Shell to get his men and their equipment ashore.

At Miri, he learned that the rebels held the police and administrative post of Bekenu, 25 miles to the south. He was ordered to re-take the post with his company and two sections of the Sarawak Field Force (SFF).

Mostyn had good reason to fear that, if he attempted an amphibious assault and took his force 10 miles up the Sibuti river, the rebels would ambush him. So he sent just one platoon in a launch by that route with orders to lie up in the rushes short of Bekenu and provide flanking fire.
The main force was to land at a small coastal village, but their craft was laden with oil-drilling equipment and grounded on a sandbank 50 yards from the shore. The skipper claimed that they were in 4ft of water, but the first man off stepped straight into 7ft, and it took an hour to get him and everybody else on to dry land. The party, guided by a section of the SFF, set off on a night march through thick jungle and mangrove swamps. A report reached them that the insurgents were lying in wait for them, and they took a circuitous track, crossing a river using native dugout canoes and covering the last half mile along tree trunks laid over a marsh.

When they reached the outskirts of the town, "Mostyn's Marauders" had been going for 16 hours. Just before 10am on December 13 Mostyn gave the order to move in. The rebels were so cocksure that they were busy appointing new civil servants when they looked through the windows of the government offices and saw the riflemen emerging from a pepper plantation and advancing towards them.

They fired off their single-barrelled shotguns and then, as they tried to escape in a boat, they were confronted by the well-armed launch-borne platoon. By the end of the battle six rebels were dead, five had been captured, while about a dozen had escaped.

When Mostyn saw one of the wounded rebels being beaten up in an attempt to obtain information from him, he put a stop to it at once. The man was so impressed by this humane treatment that he revealed the location of their main camp.

"How many will there be for lunch, sir?" enquired a beaming, recently released government official. "We had no casualties," Mostyn replied. "So it will be 90."


Anonymous said...

LOL I just read the history of Sultan Azahari coincidentally prior to your post..

Ensurai said...

Thanks for your comments. I will be writing other articles about the history of Bekenu from time to time.

Anonymous said...

memories of Bekenu

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