Unfederated Malay States
Beginning of 20th century, Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Trengganu and
Perlis independent of British Influence. Northern states under
Siamese. Britain maintained good relationship with Siam to keep
away France and Germany from extending their power in Malay
Also needed to be on good terms with Siam to protect trade routes
in Straits of Malacca.
Britain signed a few agreements with Siam.
-1897 Anglo-Siamese Secret Convention whereby Britain accepted
Siamese control of territories along coast of Kelantan and
Trengganu and Kedah
-1899 Anglo-Siamese Boundary Agreement. Britain recognized
Siamese control of Reman on the border with Perak
-1904 Anglo-French Entente among other things
agreed not to encroach on each other’s territory and
settle disputes by peaceful means
Through these agreements Anglo-Siamese relationship
tightened. Britain able to keep other foreign powers in
the northern states.
Why suddenly British changed policy?
-Siam not as strong as it seemed. Britain worried again
other European powers will take advantage of Siamese
weakness and penetrate into northern states and set up
bases. Kelantan had a Danish military officer to advise
the Sultan. Rumours of German and Russian plans to
set up bases in Northern States
-To prevent Siamese expansion to FMS whose sultans
were very unhappy over the loss of power.
-To control and exploit the resources of these states for
the benefit of the British.
Some Northern States not very happy under Siamese
control. 1902, Sultan of Kelantan appealed to Frank
Swettenham for British protection against Siam. R.W
Duff, a retired British citizen, set up the Duff
Development Syndicate for investment in the state. He
acquired a 2,000 square miles land from the sultan for
£2,000 and shares in his company.
Asked the British government to support him because
Siam would object. Indicated reluctance to support him
might ask for German or French support. British forced
to support. British signed a new agreement, Anglo-
Siamese Declaration of 1902.According to this treaty
Siam was to maintain control over the foreign policy of
Kelantan and Trengganu. Siam to have a share of the
revenue of the two states if the revenue exceeded more
than 100,000 dollars.
Bangkok Treaty of 1909
Siam was not benefiting from the four states. The states were not
happy to be under Siamese control. The agreements of 1897 and
1899 between British and Siamese giving Siamese control over
them were not approved by the Sultans.
The cost of maintaining the states was a financial drain for the
Siamese. States in debt. Better for Siam to give up and concentrate
on its internal affairs.
The British were represented by Ralph Paget and the Siamese by
Strobel, American Advisor General to Siamese government. Advice
of the four states not asked.
British government to appoint British advisors to assist
the Sultan on all affairs other than those regarding
Malay religion and customs.
British took direct control of the northern states. Sultan
of Trengganu refused to abide by the agreement. But
British advisers were appointed in Kelantan (1903) and
1909 Treaty of Bangkok
-Britain took control of the 4 northern
states including the adjacent islands.
-Britain took responsibility of the debts of the 4
states. Siam will be given a loan of £4 million at four
per cent interest to be used to construct a railway
track from Bangkok to the Malayan border.
-Britain agreed to give up its extraterritorial rights in
Siam ( British subjects in Siam subject to the laws of
-A British advisor was to be appointed in each of the
The impact of the treaty
-Sultans of UFMS refused to accept a British advisor.
The treaty was signed without consulting the sultans.
Not prepared to surrender their authority to the British.
They wanted to remain independent and powerful.
They did not want to suffer the same fate as the sultans
of the FMS whose political power was lost to the
British. Britain’s role was to be advisory only.
-The treaty established British and Siamese sphere of
-Malaya now divided into 3 political units – FMS,
UFMS and Straits Settlements came fully under British
control leaving only Johore
-George Maxwell was appointed advisor in Kedah in
1910, Captain Meadowe Frost in Perlis in 1909. Johore
accepted one in 1914 and Trengganu in 1919.
Britain now had full control of the Malay States
Peace, political and economic stability existed from
1910-1920 except for a rebellion in Kelantan against
Decentralization 1920’s and 1930’s
Distribution of central power to the states to matters
pertaining to finances, services such as railways,
customs and postal services.
-Sultans started to show dissatisfaction about their
positions. Centralization of power at the expense of
the Sultans. No power to make decisions. Were
envious of rulers of UFMS who had greater power
and were not willing to surrender their power to
British Advisors. They played a greater role in
administering their own states.
-Britain wanted to bring both the political units
under common administration to protect their
interest in the Malay States.
-Resident General was becoming very powerful
independent of the High Commissioner
-The economic recession also affected the
British. Decentralization could reduce financial
burden of British
1909 Federal Council set up to increase the power of
the Sultans, the State Councils and the Residents. The
Council was to take charge of all important matters.
But The High Commissioner chose the unofficial
members. Decisions made in the Council to be
accepted by all Sultans. It was just a rubber stamp.
Power shifted to the High Commissioner. Sultans and
State Councils no power.
1925, Sir Lawrence Guillemard, the High
Commissioner, proposed for reconstituting the Federal
Council. The post of Resident General or Chief
Secretary to be abolished and transfer of power to the
Resident. Suggestion dropped due to opposition from
business community. Individual states given more
control over some government departments by
increasing the powers of the State Councils
The Sultans would not sit in the Federal Council but
make their views heard in the Durbars. They would be
replaced by 3 British officials and 3 Malay aristocrats.
Sultans had to sign all laws but no right to veto against
legislation. Put into practice April 1927. But failed to
restore Sultans’ power since the new High
Commissioner (Sir Hugh Clifford) opposed
1930, the next High Commissioner Sir Cecil Clement,
wanted to unite the FMS and the UFMS in a federation
to cut down cost of administration. He proposed to
decentralize departments such as education, forestry,
mining, agriculture, public works, health and co-
operatives and put the in the responsibility of the
The post of Chief Secretary to be changed to that of
Federal Secretary with reduced powers. A Customs
Union to be set up to encourage trade between the
FMS, St. Settlements and the UFMS. Was
implemented between 1935-1939 amid opposition
-The British had to protect the interest of the Malay
society to prevent Chinese political dominance
-It was also a starting point for the formation of
Malayan Union. Also a strategy to attract UFMS to
1939 all except police, customs, finance, defence
department were given to the states. States to have own
laws implemented by British officers. Efforts disrupted
due to Japanese occupation.
Japanese Occupation of Malaya 1942-1945
One of the most important events in the history of
Malayan political development.
8/12/41 Japanese aircrafts bombarded Singapore
15/2/42 swept through the defenseless Malay
Peninsula, captured Singapore, the largest British naval
base and nerve centre of the British in the Far East.
Ended British control which began in 1786 within 70
days and established Japanese control in a matter of
Reasons for Japanese occupation
-Japanese population increased tremendously in 1920’s.
Land not sufficient for agricultural activities. Food
prices esp. rice rose. Conditions worsened with the
earthquakes in 1923 which nearly destroyed
Yokohama a d Tokyo 1932 population was about 70
-Japan’s landscape not suitable for agriculture. Had to
turn to industrialization. Japan transformed into a
country with powerful and profitable industries which
means need for raw materials. Abundant in SEA.
-Japan’s supremacy shown in the Russo-Japanese War 1904-5.
Russia defeated at Mukden and Tsushima. Japan gained
control of Korea and Port Arthur and established itself as a
leading power in Asia. Became even a greater power after the
Sino-Japanese War and annexed it. During WW1 Japan
captured German Pacific possessions and according to the
Treaty of Versailles, allowed to keep Caroline, Mariana and
Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Made huge profits producing
and providing ships and ammunitions for the Allies and
indirectly built a strong Pacific fleet.
-Interested in a policy of militarism with the backing of
the Meiji ruler. Experienced in fighting. Wanted to
establish themselves in the region in competition with
the European powers whom they saw as their rivals
-Western countries feared Japanese power. Tried to
blockade Japan. 1922 Washington Conference ratio of
American, British and Japanese navy 5:5:3. 1940
petroleum and metal export to Japan stopped/blocked.
Total embargo on the sale of oil to Japan so as to check
Japan. No choice but to look for sources to exploit.
-Britain and Holland busy fighting in Europe. Cannot
protect their possession in SEA. Japan needed to take
military action to get raw materials of Asia. British
only expected an attack from the south and by naval
capability only and thus prepared themselves for that.
Never expected a ground assault and an attack from
-Japan wanted to expel Europeans and Americans
from Asia and create a new order ‘Greater Asia Co-
Prosperity Sphere’ thus setting up an organization
of Asian nations under Japan’s leadership. This would provide
political, economic independence and at the same time giving Japan
control of Asian raw materials.
-Japanese imperialism was encouraged. Few agreements were signed
for example with Italy and Germany whereby it was agreed that
they would concentrate on Europe and Japan on Asia. December
1940 agreement with Siam to allow Japan to use it as a base to
attack Malaya, Indonesia and Burma. April 1941, agreement with
Russia that it would remain neutral.
Attack started in two directions, East and West.
-East- Japanese landed in Kota Bharu. Proceeded to
Kuantan and Mersing
-Dec. 1942 another group landed in Jitra. Cycled and
walked to Penang, Slim River and in Jan. reached
-Both finally merged in Johore Bharu and launched
continued attacks on Singapore.
Reasons for victory
-British were caught unprepared. Never expected an
attack from the north. Prepared for an attack from the
sea south of Singapore.
-Attack was well-planned. With the help of spies, able
to study geographical conditions in Malaya. Had
carried out a thorough review of the British forces and
strongholds in Malaya. Knew Singapore was very well
guarded from the sea. Land attack would prove
-Japanese army masters of jungle warfare. Had fought
in China. Prepared to face problems in the jungle esp.
Malaria. Had intensive training.
-Japanese equipped with modern weapons. Japanese
zero fighters effective. Problem of shortage of
ammunition and equipment overcomed by capturing
supplies from retreating defence forces.
-Use of bicycles to move quietly in jungles, villages
and hard terrain was good war tactic.
-British troops not very familiar with local conditions.
Local troops young, poorly trained and inexperienced
-Japanese had total control of the seas around Malaya.
The bombing of Repulse and Prince of Wales made the
British surrender any hope of naval superiority.
Japanese in command of sea and air.
Impact of Japanese Occupation
-Social – estranged the relationship between the races esp. between
the Chinese and Malays. Japanese hostile towards Chinese mainly
because of the Sino-Japanese War. Chinese took refuge at the
fringes of villages. Turned to agricultural activities. People suffered
from diseases. Shortage of medical service. Male members
recruited for the Death Railway. Indian workers returned to India.
Malays asked to learn Japanese. Formed MPAJA. Japanese used
police to fight MPAJA. After surrender MPAJA took over and
reprisals carried against those who were thought to have
collaborated with the Japanese.
-Mining, agriculture came to a standstill. Infrastructure
destroyed. Economic activities destroyed. British
destroyed all tools and equipments for mining tin
before retreating. Rubber estates not maintained.
Managers left. Workers jobless. High rate of inflation.
Life hard. Japanese interested in strengthening military
position. Paid little attention to economic development.
Trade totally disrupted Severe food shortage . Thus
serious economic problems.
-Raised political awareness. Stirred nationalist feelings,
anti western culture. Were influenced by slogan Asia
For Asia which was to discredit the Allies. Changed
people’s attitude of white man’s superiority. Chinese
formed MPAJA. Strengthened communist position in
-Might have laid the foundation for the close
relationship between Malaysia and Japan now. Vast
Japanese investment and Japan used as a model for
industrialization and thus the Look East Policy.
-Development of anti-Chinese antagonism among
Malays. Japanese stirred up anti Chinese feelings and
made them conscious of the Chinese control of the
country’s economy which among other reasons was a
main factor for the outbreak of the May 13 Incident.
-Japanese approved of Sultans’ position. Malaya and
Sumatra administered jointly. Local Malays allowed to
participate in administration.
When Japanese surrendered, MPAJA took over.
Badly treated Malays who were accused of
supporting the Japanese. Bloody conflict ensued for
two weeks. British formed British Army
Administration on 15/8/45. Imposed British rule after
three and the half years absence.
-Main objective to restore British authority, law and
order, to exploit human and material resources for
future utilization and in preparation for a civil