Senoi Praaq

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The Senoi Praaq is a unit of the Royal Malaysian Police made up almost entirely of the tribal people of Peninsular Malaysia known as the Orang Asli (aborigines) . The name Senoi Praaq means “war people” or “those who fight” in the Semai language. Roy Davis Linville Jumper considered them “one of the finest jungle fighting forces” and was highly successful in diminishing the threat by Communist Terrorist during the Malayan Emergency.

History[edit]

Roots of the Senoi Praaq[edit]

Members of the Senoi Praaq in 1953

One source for the following is Death Waits in the Dark, by Roy Davis Linville Jumper, Greenwood, 2001. Jumper has also written other books that are directly or indirectly related to the Senoi Praaq, Orang Asli , and the Malayan Emergency. They are, Power and Politics: The Story of Malaysia's Orang Asli, 1997; Orang Asli Now: The Orang Asli in the Malaysian Political World, 1999; Ruslan of Malaysia: The Man Behind the Domino That Didn't Fall, 2007.

The Senoi Praaq was the brainchild of R.O.D. Noone, a member of the then British Administration in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency. He pressed for the formation of the Senoi Praaq as a deterrent force to stop the communist influence over the remote Orang Asli (aboriginal) settlements in the deep jungles. In 1956 General Gerald Templer finally agreed to the formation of the Senoi Praaq as an arm of the Department of Aborigines.

The unit was established in May 1956, and Noone was made the commanding officer, serving from 1957 until 1961. The Malayan Emergency was officially declared over in 1960.

The Senoi Praaq started as a small unit, with an initial 20 recruits. This soon grew to 40 with recruits from Surrendered Enemy Personnel. The original 40 troopers were trained by the British units including by the Special Air Service, in particular by Major John Slim. Training lasted three months and covered firearms training and small units tactics, in particular ambush tactics, with the SAS concept of speed and surprise ingrained right from the start.

Charles H. Ley became the first commander of A Squadron, and had under his command some of the men he had originally captured. By 1957, the Senoi Praaq had grown to 2 squadrons of 80 men each.

Senoi Praaq Operations[edit]

The Operational Area of the Senoi Praaq dubbed the “Bamboo Operations Area” spans two strips of land along the Main Range(Malaysia) from Thailand to Johor.

The Senoi Praaq would traverse the deep darkness of the rainforests that border Malaysia, moving quickly and silently through the thick jungle undergrowth, seemingly impenetrable to others. Although many members are of the Senoi tribe, all 18 sub ethnic groups are represented in the Senoi Praaq.

The Senoi Praaq was formed to counter the influence of the communist insurgents on the Orang Asli community deep in the jungles of Malaysia as the communist terrorists operated close to the Orang Asli communities. The British were concerned of the influence that the communist terrorist would have on the Orang Asli communities. The extraordinary jungle survival and tracking skills of the Orang Asli were legendary and the British feared that the Communist Terrorist would gain an advantage if these skills were utilized against the British.

Apart from modern firearms, the unit also used sharpened bamboo stakes in traps called the Belantik, an animal trap modified by the Senoi Praaq to neutralize a more sizable hunt. A contraption of rope, bamboo , rattan and roots, the Belantik was cleverly camouflaged with leaves and grass. The instrument effectively impaled its victims at torso height killing quickly and lowering morale. Before the Senoi Praaq was deployed into an area, conventional units would withdraw, allowing the Senoi Praaq complete, unrestricted freedom of movement in the operational area. The jungle skills, stealth, endurance, and fighting skills of the Senoi Praaq made them feared adversaries of the communist terrorists in Malaya. The unit attained a respectable body count and legends arose of incidents when the Senoi Praaq would count up 10kills in a single, swift engagement. The Senoi Praaq Squadrons achieved a casualty ratio of 16:1 (Jumper, pg 61) for killed, wounded or surrendered.

Though the Senoi Praaq troopers were given a choice of weapons, they reportedly enjoyed scoring kills using their traditional weapons - the blowpipe being a favourite. They particularly enjoyed a leisurely hunt that would take a few days, stalking their prey as if they were tracking game. (Jumper, pg 62)

The Senoi Praaq quickly established a ruthless reputation among the Communist terrorists, who took great pains to avoid the Senoi Praaq. (Jumper, pg 63). Though they had access to air and artillery support, these were rarely used. Instead, The Senoi Praaq preferred more intimate tactics.

Absorbed Into Royal Malaysian Police[edit]

The Senoi Praaq operated as a unit of the Jabatan Orang Asli (Department of Aboriginal Affairs) and not as a unit of the Royal Malaysian Police or the Malaysian Army. With the beginning of the Second Communist Insurgency in 1968, The Senoi Praaq was absorbed as a unit of the Royal Malaysian Police, to fully exploit their skills and expertise. A second battalion was raised in 1970 by the royal Malaysian Police. [1]

Present Organisation Senoi Praaq[edit]

Today, the Senoi Praaq is part of the General Operations Forces (formerly the Police Field Force) of the Royal Malaysian Police. One of the unit’s main function is border security, but the unit is famed for the tracking skills of its members.

The unit have two battalions, the 3rd Battalion is based in Bidor.The Commanding Officer (CO) was then (2004-2006)Supt Mohd Yusof Wok and the 18th Battalion based in Pengkalan Hulu. Both Senoi Praaq battalions are put under the administrative and tactical command of the General Operations Force Northern Brigade.

With the end of the insurgency by Communist Party Of Malaya Terrorists, jungle patrols are no longer the primary tasks of the Senoi Praaq. Instead their task has been more akin of the normal General Operations Force battalions of the Royal Malaysian Police.

But both the units has maintained their jungle tracking and survival skills and occasionally called upon in Search and Rescue missions for people missing is the jungle. They are occasionally called to assist in locating lost jungle trekkers and mountain climbers.

Traditions[edit]

The unit was bestowed the Red beret by the British, which is worn with pride by the unit to this day. During the restructuring of the Police Field Force in 1997, the Senoi Praaq was made part of the Police General Operations Forces and made to wear the blue beret but this was rescinded and the right to wear the red beret was restored in 2003 [2]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  • Orang Asli Museum
  • [3] Shantini Suntharajah, article in The Star
  • Roy Davis Linville Jumper, Death Waits in the Dark: The Senoi Praaq, Malaysia's Killer Elite. See http://www.senoipraaq.com.
  • Richard Noone, with Dennis Holman, In Search of the Dream People, 1972, published in Great Britain under the title Rape of the Dream People.