File #3397: "ms102_04_01_05.pdf"


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
April 15, 1967

Dear Homer :
First impressions are not always right -- nor are second.
Last evening, when our Malaysia Airlines Comet jet dropped
down out of the towering cumulus clouds onto the rainswept runway, we
were awed by the beauty and magnificence of the $15,000,000 airport
building, far more elaborate than that of any city of equal size (about
400,000} in the United States .

Designed by an Australian, it must have

been strongly influenced by Yamasaki 's airport in Saudi Arabia.
After we suffered our way through Passport Control, we were
greeted by a representative of Interline (of which I had never heard} who
told us that our stay here, hotel and meals, were to be at their expense
(apparently a courtesy of Qantas).

We were driven along a fine divided

highway past a large industrial estate with plants of Mercedes, Peugot,
Caterpillar, I. C, I., and several other international companies, past
many handsome new buildings, the postal headquarters, the social
security headquarters and others (all government buildings) into the outskirts of the city and on to our modern hotel.

We were graciously received

and taken to our room where there was a refrigerator full of beer and soft
drinks and a quiet word that all of our laundry was free and would take
only six hours.


Thus, the first impression was that this was obviously a
great place.
This morning, as I looked a t a too familiar, tired face in the
mirror, running the water to drown the bugs before using the washbowl,
all too awar e that even a $1 . 50 tip to the electrician had not caused the
e lect r icity to run my razor,,:, and thinking back over the irritation of
arrival (when at Pas sport Control I waited for ten minutes in Line No. 1
to reach the counter, was told to go back to the end of Line No. 2, where
after another ten minutes of shuffling progress I was told to go back to
the end of Line No. 1, whereupon there was one instant ugly American
declaring that we were going through the line then and ther e and they could
stamp our passports or not as they wished) and now realizing that the cold
be er was not a gift but a sales gimmick, the second impression was somewhat mare re served ,
In the rationa l appraisal of a third impression, this is a most
interesting city and the capital of a struggling new nation which has much
to offer.
The Federation of Malaysia consists of West Malaysia (the
Malaysian Peninsula south of Thailand), Sarawak and Sabah (which latter
two make up most of the northern half of Borneo, now called Kalimantan).

,:, Apparently I am not the first to experience t his problem as Mrs. Freeman
has read me from the Fan American book that 11 Electric current may be a
problem for the traveller, as both alternatin g and direct currents are
supplied at 230 volts. Depending upon the area and the whims of the contractor there are no fewer than 18 differ ent types of plugs in use . 11


Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, which we "old China hands 11
(we have been he re twenty-three hours) call "K. L . ,


is about one-half

way down the southwest coast of West Malaysia.
This Malay Tuninsula is probably what the Gr eek geographer
Ptolemy referred to as the


land of gold.


It was engaged in trade with

India, directly to the west, at least a millennium and a half ago .

It has

been successively dominated by Sumatra (and the Buddhists), Java (and the
Hindus), and the Thais.

The Portuguese took over in 1511, the Dutch in 1641,

and the British in 1 795, although it was almost a century later before the
British really dominated the country.

The separate states (Johore, S.elangor,

etc.) were run, and are still administered by hereditary sultans .


the British rule, many Chinese and Indians and some middle easterners

The P e ninsula was conquered by the Japanese in World War II

and at the war 1 s end th e communist guerillas maintained a rebellion that
was not fully quieted for fifteen years .

In the meantime (1957) the British

granted independence ( 11 Merdeka 11) within the Commonwealth.

The present

Federation was created in 1963 and included Singapore until the summer of
1963 when it seceded.
Malaysia has an e lected king, His Majesty Tuanku Sultan Ismail
Nasiruddin Shah ibni Al-Mar hum Sultan Zainal Abidin ( 60), and a parliame ntary


The Singaporeans say that the Malaysian government discriminates against the Chinese (who, though they constitute 75 per cent
of Singapore I s population, are only about 40 per cent of total Malaysians).
This discrimination is a fact, for the constitution provides that three out
of four government offices must be held by Malays, but, as the Malays
point out, the Chinese, especially the Singaporeans, are far better educated'~
and, without such a constitutional preference, the government would employ
a disproportionately large percentage of the Chinese minority.


The Singaporeans claim that the Malaysian bureaucracy is
incompetent and today's STRAITS TIMES headlines a statement by a former
detainee that


40 per cent of Malaysia's civil servants are bright, 20 per

cent are mediocre, and 40 per cent can be sacked on the spot without any
loss to the Malaysian government.


The Singaporeans claim that the Malays are lazy, that they are
content to eat and sleep and are not spurred by ambition to achieve more than
a full belly.

I cannot judge this, but I am told that those Malays who have

had the benefit of an education are able and aggressive.


Education in past generations has been largely confined to the cities,
and the Chinese, who are the traders, constitute the majority of the
population in the cities and thus have had the opportunity for an education, whereas the Malays, who are rural people, had no access to schools.


In practice, the government cannot find enough adequately educated
Malays to maintain the required preference so the Chinese do in fact
exert a disproportionate influence.


The Singaporeans claim that the Malaysian government is

That charge is repeated here,

But our Ambassador Bell says

that he has investigated many such charges and can find no evidence of a

single bribe ever having been asked of any American firm here.
Mrs. Freeman has surveyed the city while I have called on the
Central and Commercial Banks and reports that the market was fascinating.
Situtated in the Chinese area near the river, the streets and sidewalks were
filled with tiny booths and teeming with people .

She was a bit frightened as

there were no other tourists, but was assured that no one would molest her
and that, if they resented her, they would only turn their backs.
The booths contained fish of all kinds, fresh and smoked, but only
one booth had i ce over the fish.
other booths .

Meat {pork only) hung in large chunks from

Fresh vegetables were in abundance -- onions, cabbage,

many varieties of cucumber, sweet potatoes, spinach , and all the root
vegetables .

They had been cleaned and were nicely displayed .


the most fascinating booth was the one that had fresh python meat, turtle,
iguana, rabbit and wild cat.

The fruits looked most appetizing.


from Israel, apples from Australia and our State of Washington, and lovely
looking large peaches,


She asked the guide if he e ve r ate anything from the

I am sure that must be so, but I was also told that the Singapore nominee
on the Board of Malaysian Airlines {two-thirds of which is owned by
the governments of Singapore and Malays ia), when accused of having
done something improper, was immediately replaced by the Singapore
government while his Malaysian counterpart was not even criticized,

-6market, and he looked really shocked and said "Never!
terrible stomach ache,


I would get

(Needless to say, we are still on Entero.lfioform.)

Mrs. Freeman was impressed with the exciting and elaborate
architecture of the mosques.

Perhaps slightly feminine by our standards,

each remains a beautiful reminder of the time when labor was cheap enough
to permit an ornateness that our present life does not permit.

She reports

that the National Museum of Art is indeed a treasure house.
She also had a very interesting visit to a rubber plantation.


first rubber trees were brought here in 1896 from those grown in the Kew
Gardens in London (to which, in turn, they had been brought from Brazil).
The trees produce from about five years of age to thirty years and are tapped
early each morning by a diagonal cut about two feet above the ground.
sap runs down this cut to a spigot and into a cup.


These cups are collected

shortly after dawn (to avoid the coagulation which would occur in the heat
of the day).

This juice is then mixed with water and acid and placed in

shallow trays where it is allowed to harden into sheets of about the size of
a hand towel.

These yellow sheets are then smoked and bound into bales

for export.
She also saw the tin mines which, in most instances, look like
lar ge lagoons from which the wet earth is either pumped through large tubes
and the various elements separated out, or is scooped up by large (and
expensive) dredges pulled slowly {about twenty feet a day) across the lagoons
while the floating machinery grinds and separates the ore into a black
sand-like material for subsequent refining.


Mrs. Freema n was not able to evaluate the quality of the
farming but found in the newspaper references to the effect that, although
Malaysia presently produces only 70 per cent of its rice requirements, some
of its leaders feel that by devoting their attention to agricultural development,
rather than dabbling in international politics, their country will be selfsufficient in a few years.

They are also attempting to develop more modern

methods of fishing to obtain the protein so badly needed to supplement their
rice diet .
Are the people reasonably satisfied with their lot?
of any opposition party might so suggest.
cause trouble again?

The absence

Are the communists likely to

After twenty-three hours I can hardly claim to be an

authority, but I have the impression that the government is certainly determined not to let this occur .

As the universities offer a particularly fertile

ground for communist agitation, the government now examines every university
applicant as to his "political reliability" and will not admit those as to whose
loyalty it entertains any doubt.
We drove through the campus of one university of some 3,000
students, with colleges of engineering, art and education, and were much
impressed with its campus and attractive buildings .

The total university

enrollment in Malaysia is approxi mately 7 , 500 and, of those, only 500 are
Malays, the rest Chinese.
and economics are Chinese .

Almost all graduates in e ngineering, the scienc e s
The Malays study the liberal arts and agricul ture .


In the university which we visited all classes are taught in
English, which language is familiar to most middle and all upper-class
groups, but the Malays are now putting great emphasis on their own language.
Perhaps, in part, this is intended to assert a superiority over the Chinese,
the great majority of whom have never bothered to learn Malay.


question of language may become as crucial here as it is in India, and some
students see in England's failure to develop the native language its greatest
failure as a colonial power. ,:c
In my one day in this country, I have been impressed by two
contrary reactions: First, the Malaysians are not doing anywhere nearly
as well as they should be with such great natural resources.

They produce

about one-third of the world I s supply of both rubber and tin.

They export

almost 900,000 tons ($500,000,000 U.S.) of rubber.

They have produced

tin for more than one thousand years and have been the world's largest
producer for the past seventy-seven years, last year's exports amounting to
$280,000,000 (U, S, ).

They export $150,000,000 (U, S.) of timber.

also export significant amounts of iron and some bauxite.


Of course, the

price of rubber declined as a result of the development of artificial rubber,
but in recent years this decline in price has been off set by greater efficiency


One recent forward step has been the adoption of the Roman alphabet
in preference to Chinese and Arabic which were previously prevalent.

-9and increased production. ,:,

Both tin and rubber have also suffered price

declines as a result of the release by the United States government of some
of its surplus stockpile, but this amounts to only about 5 per cent of the
world's consumption each year.

The Malaysians still grouse about this,

but they do not mention that from 1960 to 1962, when we first became
involved in Vietnam, the price of rubber quintupled,
Just consider what the Japanese or the Koreans or the Taiwanese
would do with such a God-given source of exchange -- yet Malaysia has a
deficit in its balance of payments .
Second, the Malaysian government has done quite well in several
respects .

Although officially headed by the elected king, the government is

actually run by Prime Minister Yang Teramat Mulia Tunku Abdul Rahman
Putra Al-Haj (60), usually referred to as "the Tengku.


A graduate of the

English school in Singapore and Cambridge University, a determined anticommunist, he strongly supports our position in Vietnam.

The seventh

son of the Sultan of Kedah (a northern state of West Malaysia on the Thai
border), he is the head of the leading political party, a confederation of
Malaysian, Chinese and Indian ethnic groups.

He is genuinely concerned

about achieving a true unity of the various groups and, himself a Malay
aristocrat, is married to an Arab girl and has adopted two Chinese children


Last month they exported 126,683 tons of rubber at an average price
of 56. 675 cents (Malaysian) a pound .


(one of them the daughter of leper parents) .
There is no opposition party,

and the people here that I have

talked to believe that the Tengku will be in power for years to come,
Apparently he deserves to be .
difficulties created by the


He has pulled his country through the

confrontation 1 1 by Indonesia.

Sukarno inspired

several commando-type raids, both on West Malaysia and North Borneo,
there by creating the necessity for substantial increases in Malaysia I s military
expenditures and discouraging foreign investment .

The T:engku has now

achieved an accord with Suharto, with full diplomatic relations to be established at the end of this month,
The Tengku and his seven-year-old central bank can claim a
satisfactory accord and some quite excellent results:



Dollar and sterling reserves of almost $900,000,000
(U.S.), enough for nine months I requirements .


A government debt of one billion (U.S.) dollars, of which
only about $150,000,000 is external.



An increase in consumer prices of only 2 or 3 per cent
over a period of five years. Last year, prices rose
slightly more, but only about one per cent.

A growing industrialization -- Dunlop Tyre has a plant here
and a few small companies are making sneakers. B. M. C,
and both a Japanese and a Swedish company have started,
or are soon to start, automotive assembly plants here.

There is none in Singapore either, which makes it harder to overcome
the break between the two countries.



A remarkably stable currency, presently linked to
sterling (the dollar equal to 2/4d). After June 12, when
it is necessary to issue a new currency (because of
Singapore I s resignation from the joint currency board),
it will have the same value, but will be linked to gold
rather than sterling. Their dollar is equal to one-third
of ours.


Malaysia, next to Singapore, has the highest per capita
annual income in Southeast Asia, somewhere between
$350 and $400.

On the other hand, Malaysia has three economic problems:

Unemployment is high, probably about 12 per cent over -all,
up to 20 or 25 per cent among those below twenty years of
age, and almost that high in the twenty to twenty-five-year


Wages are low by our standards, but at $1. 50 to $2. 00 per
day (U.S.) plus medical, maternity, sick leave and compulsory
provident fund fringes, labor is not competitive with that rn
Korea, Taiwan or Thailand. Thus, the country exports
its valuable raw materials to be processed elsewhere.


Perhaps the most pressing economic proble m at the moment
is the failure to attract foreign capital. The present fiveyear development plan is based on the assumption of substantial and continuing foreign investment, but, despite a World
Bank conference on the subject , a Japanese offer of
$50,000,000 (U . S.), smaller loans from France and other
nations and such United States investments as that of Esso
(some $50,000,000), foreign investment just isn't flowing in.
Indeed, last year, although Malaysia had a surplus in its
trade account, it had a balance of payments deficit because
of a net capital outflow. Was this due to Malaysians sending
their money abroad or foreign corporations withdrawing some
of their earlier investment? The Deputy Governor of the
Central Bank (a very bright Chine se) d i d not know, but hoped
it might prove to b e j ust a temporary aberration. I hope so, too.

There are quite adequate banking facil itie s .

Indeed, the banks are

extremely liquid and are seeking good borrowers -- but only on short term .


The banks pay 3 per cent on savings, 5 per cent on six - month deposits,
and 4-1 /2 per cent to 5 per cent on overnight funds .
7-1 /2 per cent, but they average 9. 6 p e r cent.

Their prime rate is

Banks are subject to the

40 per cent corporate income tax plus an additional 5 per cent " development
tax. "
What probably discourages investment is the troubled past, the
communist threat, the confrontation, the secession of Singapore, all of
which created fears which considerably reduced the inflow of capital.


more, there is not yet any substantial domest i c market, so the foreign
investor must either be satisfied with this limited Malaysian market or manufacture for shipment abroad in competition with lower-cost labor (of equal
or better productivity) in other Pacific nati ons .
It might seem reasonable to use local labor to process Malaysia's
raw materials, but perhaps most finished rubber products and also those of
tin would be more bulky and expensive to ship to distant markets than is the
raw material.
Our Ambassador expressed great hope for increased United States
investment, primarily for production and loca l marketing of consumer goods,
pointing out that bringing Malaysian-made goods back to the United States
not only aggravates our balance of payment s pr o bl e m, but also creates
resistance among both our manufacture r s and labor groups (who have already
joined together to cause Congress to set quot as fo r the importation of t extiles


from other Asian countries, though not yet for Malaysia).

It is the

Ambassador's job to try to be helpful, but I fear that substantial fore i gn
investment will come more slowly than the Malaysians hope.
Kuala Lumpur is located at the juncture of two narrow, muddy
rivers which give the place its name.

A colorful mosque has been built

at the confluence of these rivers, and the city has spread out from that point .
The rivers, which were the first arteries of transportation, are now supplemented by perhaps the best system of roads of any country in Southeast
Asia, a benefit from England I s benevolent colonial rule .
We arrived here with the Singaporean propaganda in our ears.


leave one day later certain that, despite the superiority of Singapore I s government, we would, if faced with a choice, prefer to live h e re.
has little of the squalor of Singapore.

The city itself

Palac e s, British office buildings,

many Moorish-style government buildings side by side with excellent modern
buildings, most of which have decorative facades of metal or stone screening
to filter the intense sunlight, make

K . L. very interesting architecturally.

Yet it is still Asian and, between the arcaded sidewalks and the street, there
is an open (but stagnant) sewer which adds the odor of its decaying garbage to
that of the overflowing cans on the street.
For those representatives of United States companies who live here,
life can be quite pleasant.

The city has a siz e adequate to provide good

supplies, rents are fairly high (though perhaps only one-third of those in



Most European-style food is imported, much of it by air freight,

at considerable cost.

The weather is hot and humid.

Criticism of the

government, a national pastime at home, is not encouraged and, in a country
where a foreigner has to renew his work permit 'each six months, a word
of caution is not ignored.
But the surrounding country is absolutely beautiful.


mountains reach right down to the city and offer the opportunity for frequent
excursions .

The pace is leisurely and social life pleasant.

There is a sub-

stantial western community (of English, Dutch and Australians * ) with a small
group of Americans.
Mrs. Freeman saw many middle and upper-class homes that
were attractively d es igned and beautifully ke p t up.

She reports that there

is a magnificent country club, and I was told by a few westerners that I met
that they consider this an e xcellent post.

Some say it is the most desirable

in all of Asia.
Mrs. Freeman, who three years ago visited James Thompson's
house in Bangkok, has been terribly concerned about his disappearance three
weeks ago (from a fri e nd's home a bout 70 miles north of here in the Cameron

The Australians exert quite an influenc e her e. Radio Australia
is on the air nineteen hours a day, and Australians have set up
and, until just recently, run the central bank.




We explored that subject -- to the extent that we could.


Malaysian government had over 100 of their police * on the job for eight
days without finding a trace.

They do not believe that he was killed by a

tiger (though tigers do roam that area) for nothing was found, and a tiger
would not eat shoes, bones and everything.

It does not seem likely that

as experienced a man as he would have allowed himself to become lost,
though it is very rough and he might have slipped off the trail into a leaffilled canyon.

There are no communists known to be in the Cameron high-

lands area (such as there are left are further north along the Thai border).
His assistant in the Thai silk business flew over and for several days was
questioned as to Mr. Thompson's personal affairs, but these gave no indication of any difficulties.

If he was kidnapped, one would think that a ransom

note would have been delivered.

If it has, it has not been made public.

He was once lost for four weeks in the Himalayas and finally
wandered out, tired but smiling .

We certainly hope he will repeat, but, if

he is gone, his loss is a real one, not only to his close friends, but also to
Thailand where he helped so much in creating a world-famous industry,
providing employment for thousands.


His loss also would be a blow to our

This is a good force. Their l e aders have been well trained at
both Scotland Yard and our F. B. I. school. They effectively crushed
the communist guerillas in the forests several years ago .

-16country whose interests he served by being so much the opposite of

the ugly American.


It is now 5 :00 p . m.

In a few minutes we leave for a long

flight -- first to Singapore, then the length of Sumatra across the western
Pacific, past Christmas Island into Perth, then completely across
Australia to Sydney and back down to Melbourne, w here we should arrive
tomorrow a little after noon, unkempt and sleepy.

En route, though already

tired, I will write this, the fourth letter in five days, but, if even for an
instant I felt over-burdened, I need only look up at the thousands of dark
faces on the "waving gallery" of the K. L. airport, all staring down at us
few fortunate travellers able to leave here for a r icher and more modern
We end this Asian leg of our trip feeling, as we have so many
times in prior years, reverently thankful that we are Americans .





c,,1101: Kuala Lumpur

C1plt1I: Sing a pore

Aru: 128,430 square miles

Ar11: 224 square miles

ro,,l,tin {1965): 9,429,000
D1111ty: 7 4 per square mile

,.,,1,1111: 1,840,000
D111lty: 8,2U per square mile

llnotin: Hi9hst Polit: 13,455 feet
lowest Poi1t: Seo Ieve I

EltHIIH: H1,~ .., Pel1t: 581 feet

Prl1d,ol l119H9t: Maloy

Prl1dp1l lH9119e:Chinese, Malay
& English

l1w11t Pel1t:Sea level

Prl1dp1I Rtll1i11: I s Io m
Pollllcol DMsloas: 13 Stoles


Gulf of Siam

Prhul,el l11f9l11:Chinese, Islam
& Ch rislianily



11 5°




M ilts

@ Nat ional Capital

-ft Capital
_......._ Railroad




,/ D'


















Copllright by Rand McNally & Co,
and Reproduced with Their PermlHion