This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: JFU 442).


With the Japanese surrender and Allied occupation of south east Asia, large numbers of forced labourers are returned to Malaya from Siam (Thailand) and receive food, medical treatment and other services.

Footage from a moving train with a number of freed Asian labourers on board. The train approaches a wooden hutted encampment by a river, probably the Bandon River near Surat Thani, Siam (Thailand). The labourers detrain; armed Japanese soldier are present. The train is unloaded and the men gather on a jetty. A Japanese landing craft approaches. A group of labourers carry their belongings on yokes towards the jetty. Labourers onboard the landing craft. Sacks of rice are carried towards the jetty by Japanese troops. Sacks unloaded from a train and stacked on the jetty. Berthed river boat. Wide shot of an encampment of bamboo and palm huts (possibly at Surat) where labourers are on parade; there appears to be an Allied officer (?) addressing them and Japanese troops are present. Labourers cross railway tracks with their belongings; some of them are obviously injured or underweight. Labourers and waiting train. Labourers gathering and piled baggage. General scene with a waiting train, now possibly at Haadyai (Hat Yai) in southern Siam. A man in a white shirt, shorts and wearing an armband searches a man. Another man wearing an armband searches a man's belongings; a close-up of the band shows it is marked 'Customs Kedah'. More checking of belongings. A wide shot in which a railway sign reading 'Anak Bukit' can be read (a few miles south of Jitra, now on the outskirts of Alor Setar (then Alor Star), capital of Kedah). Customs officials on a pile of baggage. A sack. Stationary train. Customs man walks along the platform with two parcels; the train moves behind him. A parcel is opened. A box with Chinese markings is shown to the camera (contraband?). Waiting labourers walk to a lorry and climb aboard. More loading and boarding of lorries. A civilian woman, apparently with husband and child, about to board a lorry. A sack is opened. A number of small polished metal items are shown to the camera (opium vials?). Lorries approach camera. Entrance to a reception centre at Jitra in Kedah State, Malaya, with a sign reading 'BMA K/P [British Military Administration Kedah/Perlis] Reception Camp'. Lorries arrive at camp. Labourers get down off the vehicles and unload them. A mother with young child. A civilian sits on baggage and looks at the camera. Pile of baggage. Civilians are issued with surplus Japanese military clothing. People showering in the open. A man drinks from the shower. A very old (or simply emaciated) woman (?) walking with a stick. A (Red Cross?) nurse, talking to someone out of frame, laughs when she realises she is on camera and backs away. People sitting on the floor eating. Series of shots showing food (apparently rice and curry) being distributed. A large crowd waiting for food. Registration in progress. A woman washes a young child under the shower. Close-up of the child smiling at the camera as water cascades over his head. Two naked children at the showers (sister and brother?); they appear to have swollen stomachs suggesting malnutrition. Inoculations are administered. A person (presumably a sick case) is carried towards a small hut. A long hut marked 'School'; children arrive. The children go inside. Interior hut with teachers at blackboards. Teacher standing by her blackboard. Children crosslegged on the floor. A captain, probably of the 19th Hyderabad Regiment, talks to and holds something out to a small and badly emaciated child. Close-up of the child. The emaciated child with two others, both of whom have plastered right legs. The doctor seen earlier examines the emaciated child, gives an instruction to a (Red Cross?) nurse and then moves on the next child.


The Japanese occupation of south east Asia led to the forced migration of large numbers of civilians. According to Bayly and Harper, of 72,000 labourers sent from Malaya to Burma and Siam, 30,000 died and a further 25,000 'deserted', of whom many would have in fact died in the camps or later perished in the jungle.

For film showing the plight of Javanese labourers in Singapore, see related items.

The dopesheet names the commander of the reception camp as Senior Civil Affairs Officer (Kedah and Perlis) Lieutenant-Colonel G W Somerville, a Scottish former forestry officer and captain in the Malay Volunteer Force. By coincidence, the Hyderabad captain and medic seen in this film was also a Scot.

While the dopesheet for this film makes it clear that this item was shot with the intention of showing an effective and organised British response to the suffering of these civilians, this is a well shot piece with a marked sense of humanity on the part of the cameraman.



Series Title:

Technical Data

Running Time:
14 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1208 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
War Office Directorate of Public Relations
Govan, H W (Sergeant)
Production company
SEAC Film Unit



Production Organisations