In 1976, 3rd Battalion, The Malaysian Rangers was a part of a Divisional Group operating deep in South Thailand alongside the Thai Military Forces. Forty kilometres to be exact - in an area called Ban To.
The area showed signs of the presence of the Communist Terrorists (CTs): Terrains above 1000ft was said to be bobby trapped. Well-used tracks hugging the Malaysian-Thai Border existed. There were many spent rifle cartridges found in open spaces and well-used tracks. We were told the CTs used to shoot at the Royal Malaysian Air Force helicopters flying in the vicinity.
Towards the end of the joint operation, 3rd Rangers became the stay-behind party - all other forces were withdrawn from the area.
With the help of a Special Government Agent (SGA), I located the vegetable plot where the SGA used to work in from 0600 to 1900 hours daily. I scanned the surrounding area with my binocular and saw a few CTs climbing up a slope with sacks on their back. I knew there were CTs in a hut whose roof top was just visible from where I was about 600m on another ridge. I saw a sentry under a papaya tree looking the opposite direction.
I made a plan to attack them and called the rest of my "C" Company to rendezvous with me (I was actually on a reconnaissance patrol and had only 5 men with me). By the time we were ready, it was already quite late. After unsuccessfully trying to bear artillery fire on the target, I decided to "soften" the target area with my own company support weapons - a 60mm mor, a GPMG and a 40mm M79 Grenade Launcher. After about 5 minutes of heavy fire, I sent down a platoon to search the area. No CTs.
Early the next day, we swept and searched the area again. I heard a loud explosion and cringed at the thought that one of my men had stepped on a bobby trap. My fear was confirmed when I heard a shout. I went to the location and saw one of my men lying on the ground with his left foot shattered. Even after 3 jabs of morphine, he was still groaning in pain. An hour later, a helicopter came to pick him up and sent him to the nearest hospital in Penang. That was the last I saw of Ranger Amiruddin.
I met him yesterday (3 July 2011) at a get-together organised by a few of my ex soldiers - retired WO2 Asri Yusof and retired SSjn Mohd Mokhtar in Taman Ria, Sg Petani, Kedah. I couldn't even remember his name, let alone recognise him. It was not until our conversations had drifted to Operation Cahaya Bena in 1976 in South Thailand that somebody pointed him out to me. All these years, I had been trying to remember him but just couldn't. It had been a long 25 years.
According to him he was in GH Penang for 3 months. His left foot was amputated below the knee, immediately.
At the moment he is living solely on his pension. What are his hopes? Looking forward to the promise made by the former Defence Minister on an invalidity allowance for bobby trapped victims. Can the Government make good the promise? Let's hope this article gets to the right ears.