Kuala Lumpur (1960-1970)/ 13 May Incident

The incident is a key event of Kuala Lumpur during the 1960s. Although it is named “incident”, the nature of it is an outbreak of violent riot due to racial conflict. Followed by the independence, the composition of population in Kuala Lumpur changed radically. Nevertheless, the segregation of ethnic didn’t resolved. Chinese continued to pack in shop houses in Chinatown. Malay lives in overcrowded settlement of Kampong Bharu. Indians reside in railway workshops in Sentul and Brickfeld. The invisible barrier between different ethnic groups is still strong.

The two kind expectation and desire for the new nation from Malay and non-Malay ethnic group also contributes to the formation of racial conflict. The Malays are expecting the new country to be the nation of Malay. Hence, the Malay culture including language and religion should be the dominating culture of the nation. They will be enjoying more rights in aspects of education and economy. Other ethnic groups reckon that they contributed to the independence of Malaya as well. They should enjoy the same right as all other ethnic groups. The contradiction of the two believes caused the happening of the riot.

After the general election, the opposition which is mostly the ethnic minority celebrated their victory in Selangor state council. The Malay population feel insulted and fear that the rise of the Malaysia Chinese would inhibit their dominance. Extreme Malay nationalism “Ketuanan Melayu” believers, gathered and attacked the Malaysian Chinese. The state declared a state of emergency and suspended the parliament and press to restore law and order to the state.

The official death number during the riot is 196, which most of them are Chinese. The number is believed to be much lower than the real situation. The result of the riot also leads to the implementation of the New Economical Policy (NEP) which offers advantage in many aspects to Malays.

The following picture might lead to distress to readers

Victims of 13 May incident
Victims of 13 May incident



Yat, M. L. (2013) Architecture and Urban Form in Kuala Lumpur. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Rimmer, P. J., Dick, H., (2009) The City in Southeast Asia. Patterns, Processes and Policy Singapore: NUS Press

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