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' It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ' (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities ).

As this year marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War and the liberation of Malaya, I asked some of the top leaders of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) - which was the linchpin of the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) - to recall their personal experiences in this momentous period of the nation's history.

The meeting took place on Feb 20 and 21 in Ban Chulabhorn 12 in Sukhirin, southern Thailand, where some of these almost forgotten heroes and heroines of the Pacific War in Peninsular Malaysia now live in retirement with their children and grandchildren. Many of them are Malay Muslims who speak not only Malay but also Chinese and Thai.

In the self-contained village located deep inside a jungle, I met with CPM chairman Abdullah CD, central committee members Suriani Abdullah @ Eng Ming Ching, Rashid Maidin ( photo, above ) and Abu Samah Mohd Kassim.

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