I came across this eye-witness account of the scene around KL during then US president Lyndon Johnson’s visit to Malaysia on 30 October 1966. His visit to Malaysia took place a year after the United States deployed regular combat troops to Vietnam, following its stepped up involvement after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. Apart from Malaysia, his tour of South-East Asia took him to Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines. In next-door Indonesia, in the transition to US-backed Suharto’s New Order regime, a massive anti-communist purge that killed over 500000 people had subsided by March 1966.

The following account was written by a former diplomat:

As Malaysia awaits the second ever visit by an American President, I am reminded of the first such visit. I had been in the country barely two months on my first diplomatic posting overseas when President Lyndon Johnson visited Kuala Lumpur at the end of October 1966.

As it was a Sunday morning with little traffic, I decided to drive around town in my new MGB for a look at the preparations and also attend the wreath-laying by the US President at the National Monument just off Jalan Parliament. I had heard that anti-American demonstrations were planned against the Vietnam war and wondered what the atmosphere in town would be like.

The town was very quiet. My route took me to Market Square where I turned right at the Bangkok Bank to pass in front of the USIS Lincoln Centre. As I turned I looked to my left and saw a huge crowd coming in my direction, apparently also heading for the Lincoln Centre. The front ranks of the crowd were carrying a large banner bearing the words “USA keluar Vietnam” (“USA, get out of Vietnam”). The crowd was chanting slogans and banging metal dustbin lids, making a very loud and frightening noise.

Now, driving only a hundred yards ahead of the demonstrators, I passed in front of the Lincoln Centre, which was guarded by a half dozen policemen dressed as they still were in those days in khaki shorts and armed with jungle carbines, the cut-down Lee Enfield .303 army rifle, hardly appropriate for non-lethal crowd control. As I reached the traffic lights at the corner of the Padang (now Dataran Merdeka), a police officer waved me quickly off to the right along Jalan Raja in front of the old State Secretariat.

Advancing towards me from that direction, however, was a phalanx of Police Field Force (PFF) in full riot gear. When I stopped to take photographs, I heard several shots from around the corner behind me and assumed the policemen at the Lincoln Centre had opened fire. Another police officer urged me to drive away and the PFF parted ranks to let me through.

I stopped again at the corner of the Padang near St Mary’s Church and continued to take photographs. Now the demonstrators were streaming in panic onto the Padang in front of the Selangor Club where they were caught between the PFF company I had driven through and another company of PFF I had not seen at the other end of the Padang. It was a complete melee with tear gas and riot batons felling the demonstrators.

I decided to leave and retrace my route through town via the former Jalan Mountbatten and Market Square to see what had happened at the Lincoln Centre. There among the litter and belongings dropped hurriedly by the fleeing demonstrators was a body lying in the middle of the road just past the Lincoln Centre.

Chastened by this, my first experience of demonstrators encountering police violence, I drove to the Lake Gardens, parked and proceeded on foot to the National Monument to witness President Johnson lay his wreath.

At an official dinner that evening, my story of the morning’s events attracted the eager attention of fellow diplomats and visiting foreign journalists. I had had my baptism of fire as a diplomat.

Thanks to blog reader looes74 for the video link.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Malaysia cannot succeed unless equal opportunity given to non-Muslims, says Obama.
    Now, can he say that to Putrajaya? or more in person to Jibby?

    • So many questions:
      Guantanamo Bay
      Iraq
      Why are TPP negotiations so secret? MNC agenda?
      Income inequality
      Climate change – why isn’t the US doing enough?
      Etc.

      • Civil society groups who attended the town hall session with US President Barack Obama were disappointed that Asean youths dubbed “future leaders” did not take the golden opportunity to ask him questions on policy issues today. Instead, they deemed questions such as “what happiness meant to the US president” and “what his greatest regrets were” as unnecessary, when instead queries should have been over US’ foreign policy and transgressions of rule of law in Malaysia.

        http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/wasted-opportunity-as-future-leaders-throw-weak-questions-at-obama-say-ngos

        Anil should have been invited to pose questions to Obama.

      • Well, I don’t really blame the students. They are products of more than a dozen years of brainwashing by the system. It will take them some time to shake off the indoctrination and educate themselves about the real issues confronting the nation, the region and the world.

  2. How much do we pay this … Regiment annually just for them to blow the trumpets and is that all they are good for ? Can anyone please tell me what else do these trumpet blowers do ? They must cost the nation millions or billions since they were formed and more importantly, what wars have they been to or at least how many terrorists from the southern Philippines have they prevent from entering the country ? Here is another reason why the country is so badly in debt, right ?

    • The Abu Sayaf is one of several deviated militant Islamist separatist groups in Southern Philippines involved in criminal activities, including kidnapping, rape, child sexual assault, drive-by shooting, extortion, and drug trafficking.
      They seemed to be given a ‘free-reign’ of terror & unspeakable crimes in the ‘Wild Wild East’ of Sulu Seas much like those in Somalia famed for sea hijacking for ransom.
      And they seemed to know where are the sympathisers in nearby countries.

      The Philippines military has not done a clean job for almost 4 decades to dismantle these terrorists of cancerous socio-political-religious problems which now increasingly see no territorial limits to pursue their greed for easy money. It’s useless to negotiate with them when all reasons fell on deaf ears into the depths of South China Sea. If ever given sufficient funding by al-Queda, these adventurous terrorists cum kidnappers for easy money might venture as far as our Pulau Redang (off Kelantan) or even SingKahPoh’s Sentosa Island where there’s ready casino mountain of money to scoop in the early hours of the morning. SingLand’s AWAC is absolutely useless to detect discreet pirates in low cruising fibre speed boats.
      The recent incursion is not the first litmus test of our security cordons. Infiltration thro illegal immigration & illegal workers & alleged ‘open gate’ for free Malaysian IC into Sabah & Sarawak has (allegedly) built a network of social, political & financial ‘sleeper cells’ ready to be activated should circumstances demand in their Abu Sayaf imprinted heads.

      We are dealing with a faux religious group with criminal intention which have deviated from its original cause.
      When dealing with persistent criminals, we are not supposed to talk like a counsellor nor give discounts like a pasar malam seller. Perhaps, one fine day when another PRC Chinese is kidnapped, the Chinese military may decide: enough is enough – let’s finish them off once & for all.

  3. President Barack Obama is expected to discuss with Malaysia the Beijing’s territorial assertiveness in Asia. Australian TV’s Beverley O’Connor speaks with Tony Pua on this matter:

  4. 3 things happened straight in a row in the Spring of 2014:

    a) Joint military exercise in Thailand – Cope Tiger (Aviation and ground units from the U.S. Air Force, the Royal Thai Air Force, Navy and Army, and the Republic of Singapore Air Force participating in the Cope Tiger 2014 Field Training Exercise (FTX) in Thailand March 10-21.

    b) Disappearance of MH370 (was it a civilian target of US secret laser + drone high-tech aircraft hijack weapon?) that led to strained & suspicion of bilateral relationship.

    c) US President regional salesmanship & public relation for an axis of ‘blood-brothers’ war proxies in the event of conflict against an Asian super power in the mineral-rich South China Sea.

    The preparedness to war, test of secret military tech ware & strain of bilateral relationship between Malaysia + China, & swift marketing of military/political soul-selling to beholden (kam cheng) Asian countries – are the consistent hallmark of Washington DC (to start a regional war or 3rd World War?). The still fresh Vietnam War & the Iraqi conflicts in search of weapon of mass destruction are glaring examples of creating international phantom problem > joint military solution > colonisation of trade, economy & culture.

    3 Cheers of Kopi-O kau kau kau to 2014 events to unfold.
    Belum Rainforest, my ultimate sanctuary from the insanities of coming global conflicts led by RedNeck US.

    • Tunglang should write a book (or at least post it on this blog) detailing his conspiracy theory of the disappearance of MH370.

      Surely meletup one! Like C4?

      • The Kenyan-blood Salesman of US Adventurism is now preaching & evangelising our feeble minds & confused perception of what has happened to peaceful & safe Malaysia.
        If we are sold, or our souls sold to this evangelism, be prepared for haven’t we already heard of “Dua ekor gajah berjuang, seekor kancil mati tersepit di tengah”?
        Vietnam was once a Sang Kancil left to lick its wounds & which will always remain a sang kancil.

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