Kee, Thuan Chye 1954-

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KEE, Thuan Chye 1954-


Born May 25, 1954, in Penang, Malaysia; married; children: two. Education: Essex University, England, M.A., 1987; Attended University Sains Malaysia.


Agent—c/o Author Mail, Picador USA, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


Writer, stage director, editor, and actor. National Echo, Malaysia, literary editor, 1977-79; New Straits Times, Malaysia, literary editor, 1979—; Star, Malaysia, picture editor. Also served as judge and regional chairperson for Commonwealth Writers Prize.


Winner, New Straits Times—Shell short-story competition, 1989-90, for Haunting the Tiger and Other Stories.


Old Doctors Never Fade Away (biography) Teks Publishing (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), 1988.

(Editor) Haunting the Tiger and Other Stories, Berita Publishing (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), 1991.

Just in So Many Words: Views, Reviews, and Other Things, Heinemann Asia (Singapore), 1992.

Contributor to Asiaweek, Far-Eastern Economic Review, and Asia magazine.


1984 Here and Now (produced in 1985), K. Das Ink (Petaling Jaya, Malaysia), 1987.

We Could **** You Mr. Birch (produced in 1994), Academe Art & Print Services (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), 1995.

The Big Purge, Times Editions (Singapore), 2004.

Also author of The Fall of Singapura.


A Sense of Home, a novel.


Thuan Chye Kee is a Malaysian dramatist whose plays 1984 Here and Now and We Could **** You Mr. Birch have won him international acclaim as a writer. As an actor, Kee has had speaking roles in the movies Anna and the King and Entrapment. He has also appeared in Malaysian sitcoms and has directed and acted in stage productions. He primarily works as a journalist for national periodicals in Malaysia.

Kee is one of a small group of Malaysian authors who write in English in order to gain a larger audience. His play 1984 Here and Now shaped his reputation as a social and political critic. Borrowing to some extent from George Orwell's novel 1984, he casts a Big Brother party in his play that controls a people consisting of so-called proles and party members. These are segregated, which results in a polarized country. The plot involves Wiran, a journalist and discontent party member, entering a relationship with Yone, a prole woman who eventually betrays his ideals.

The play struck a chord with the Malaysian audience, given the country's political climate. While Kee subsequently had some difficulties obtaining stage permits, his play We Could **** You, Mr. Birch was produced uncensored in 1994. It deals with the rule and killing of James Birch, Malaysia's first British resident. who was eventually assassinated by the natives in the nineteenth century. Depicting a clash of cultures, Kee leaves it up to the reader to decide whether Birch was a martyr or whether he deserved his fate, thus calling into question the accounts of numerous history textbooks. According to Ng Wei Chian in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, We Could **** You, Mr. Birch "is a pointed critique of history and, more importantly, who and what constitutes history and historical truth."

In an interview with, Kee compared his two most successful plays and commented: "1984 was a very propagandist play, a form of agitprop (agitation propaganda). It was preachy, and very direct. There were no subtleties about it.… Mr Birch was more successful because it was subtler. It was less partisan." The themes, however, according to Chian, "are hard to mistake anywhere: power played out in every conceivable context and the scars, large and small, that it finally leaves on bodies social and personal."



Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.


Far Eastern Economic Review, April 29, 1993, Myint Zan, "Jottings of a Basher," p. 35.

Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, July, 2004, Ng Wei Chian, "Of Politics, Proles, and Party Members."

World Literature Today, spring, 2000, C. S. Lim, "A Survey of Malaysian Poetry in English," p. 271.


Asiaweek Online, (September 27, 2004), Amir Muhammad, "Raising a Stink", (October 17, 2001), Michelle Woo, interview with Kee.*