"The Communist Guerillas" Betong by l_joo
Betong Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 27 photos
We went to Betong in October year 2002. Our transportation was Proton Wira, a proud national product and l_joo of VT served as the chauffeur driving a long way from Penang following the road to Baling and last to the border town of Pengkalan Hulu. This little border town has only a few shops, restaurants and budget hotels mostly expecting a big tourist bus brought them business. After a long drive, all of us decided to stretch legs and release, so we take a short break for lunch before we head to the custom. Custom is always the same and this one looks ordinary enough without big troops or super units, very quiet indeed while scrutiny work going smoothly for us. Road was clean wide, good condition and even well planted with flowers. About 10 minutes of drive, we saw the first hotel of Betong, not the huge grand type but 2-star probably.
Rubber plantation district of Betong at Yala province is located in Southern most of Thailand and the town is less than 10km from the Thai-Malaysian border. Once arriving, it reminds me of Haadyai in its overall mood. Somewhere around has a big red post tower height roughly 30 feet as landmark and in the middle of the town stands a clock tower round-about. Taxi tuk-tuk all over the place, massage parlours meanwhile bunch of Malaysian tourists (mostly Malay-Muslims men) smile all the way and Thai girls smiling to you too. Be careful with bird *** that will drop onto your head as they are anywhere on the power cable. Eating was so easy same as hotels were plentiful, travel agencies and many other shops.
Chinese and Thai are two major languages in this town of Betong, English is not so popular instead. One hotel I went to ask for room prices in English but they look at me with big eyes until I pause a while and they replied in Chinese “Mister, you can speak Chinese because all of us speak Chinese here”. Oh I see, it’s easy then, I can speak fluent Chinese.
We stayed at a 3-star hotel cost RM60 (they accept Malaysian Ringgit in Betong). Double beds with air-con, clean bathroom attached. Just opposite our room was a massage parlour and we can see about 10-15 Thai girls sitting and waiting for customers in their purple color uniform. They charge a fair reasonable price but I couldn’t remember how much, somewhere around 240 Thai baht per 2 hours for each person.
The Ex-Malaysian Communist
They are already old and harmless to Capitalism, living a tranquil life inside the hill of Betong, the place they live approximately 15km outside the town of Betong and the name was something like Friendship Village if I memorize correctly. The road signboard has English written as Piyamit Tunnel so we suppose that should be the one we are looking for. We set out from our hotel around 11am, after asking one hotel attendant about the direction, we roughly get the location idea. Road was okay, very wide big clean road, straight ahead without much turns and then about 15 minutes we come to a shop housing area. A Chinese medicine shop appeared and we decided to ask the shop owner regarding the direction and we got it. The Chinese doctor sends us one aunty whom he claimed as his patient that lived near to the Friendship Village, so we bring along this aunty for her to give directions. She can speak Chinese dialects and we can understand her, why not. Less than 5 minutes, we come to an old Chinese village with Chinese temple and Chinese words written on walls as road sign. Here is her house, she pointed at one alley and so we drop her there and then we drove ahead as according to her estimation about 30 minutes more to that village. Now the road has becoming very narrow, some portion already in bad condition and very stiff up and down. It’s like a 4-wheel-drive adventure tracks, I have to make sure my right foot step firmly onto the brake and up to one stage we even have to stop to cool down the brake. Anyway, we finally arrived at the Friendship Village. It looks like an ordinary kampong but with some old military vehicles on display and some outdated Communism slogans written here and there, wow let’s explore.
Meet the old Commies
This is not Cold War because Lenin and Mao already gone but only some remaining old Malaya Commies. The official name of this place is Piyamit Tunnel but the Thai-Chinese called it Friendship Village, I didn’t ask them why. Anyway, we met a guy age around 70’s where we chit chat with him nearly two hours about his Communism days. He told us many old stories from why he joins the Communist until they surrendered. One thing he repeated many times was his origin motivation of joining the Communist party, he said it was all because he was a very poor young man from a village in Kedah state (Kedah is a northern state of Malaysia) and when the day Communists came to recruit party members, he went with them. He also told us many insider’s secret of how they eventually splitted into two gangs where each of them has their own viewpoint about their philosophy of Communism. We asked him by what way they get communications with Mao’s Communist in China, he said the Chinese built a radio station somewhere in Yunnan province so that comrades from South East Asia can receive their latest news.
Piyamit Village - Guerrilla Tunnel
Entrance was 50 Thai baht for each person and visitors must climb up the hill slope, not easy for non-exercise tourists. About 10 minutes we can see up there a tunnel but not immediately walk in because we want to wait for the old comrade to give us direction and also he will explain to visitors some exciting old war stories.
This tunnel is not a grand huge stunning work like Angkor Wat, it is only a 3 month’s digging by approximately 50 peoples, length nearly 1km and some 55 feet wide. The Malaya Communist Guerrillas use it to hide from air attacks and also for store provisions. It was said a group of people called the Thailand Joint-developers in year 1976 first came to settle here. The moment I step inside, it was very clean and well taken care of for tourism purposes and next to the tunnel has one small museum look-alike building. This museum has many old Communistic materials for you to enjoy. According to the history written on the display box, the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) was first established in Kuala Pilah of today’s Seremban state in Malaysia. To read more about Communist party of Malaya, there's a book (Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History) and for the Location map to Betong, click on this link
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