Generations of young Britons made their careers in Malaya. Some scaled the heights of the administrative service and are well recorded in the formal histories. Others served in less high profile but equally challenging departments, carrying out the work of government in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. Eastern Customs traces the fascinating story of the Customs Service in British Malaya and those who made up its ranks. The service had a brief but colourful history from its introduction in 1910. For the next three decades, it took on the opium monopoly and became responsible for its importation, processing and distribution. It was a lucrative business, providing more than 50 per cent of Government revenue. But as international opposition to drugs hardened the service controlled and eventually moved to eliminate the trade, becoming an anti-narcotics force after 1946. Derek Mackay offers a vivid portrait of life in the Malayan customs service. As well as an absorbing history of the service, there are exciting episodes of law enforcement as Mackay describes in detail how the officers did its work. He examines the controversial opium trade as well as the struggle against illegal distilleries and producers of tobacco. In hazardous conditions he and his team went after their hauls, working to outwit the smugglers. He uses his own memories, and first-hand accounts from former customs staff to bring the experience of living and working in Malaya to life. Eastern Customs is a rich and rewarding read that offers a fascinating new insight into the imperial administration.
The Customs Service in British Malaya and the Hunt for Opium