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According to a recent news report, a 17 year old Chinese student from Johor said that there was no special initiation ceremony to become a gang member. He only had to give his name on a piece of paper and was accepted into the gang. This appears to be a deviation from the traditional way of being initiated into a gang.
In Malaysia the triad tradition is rather unglamourous in comparison to those having roots from Hong Kong. The element of ceremony and tradition is virtually non-existent, and these gangs are run strictly as businesses.
According to historians, Chinese gangs (called triads in the West) have their roots in a 17th Century movement dedicated to restoring China's Ming dynasty to the throne, but over time they degenerated into criminal gangs.
A well-connected member of the Malaysian Chinese community based in New Zealand told the BBC that in some places, Chinese gangs still have rituals.
For instance, if a triad leader intends to retire from the secret society, he gathers everybody from his gang and in front of leaders from other societies he washes his hands in a gold basin which symbolises that from that day onwards he is not going to be involved in the triad society any more.
A Malaysia triad member, Ah Hing, however told the BBC that being a gang in Malaysia it's a pragmatic affair, where deals are reached with the authorities - who set boundaries for crimes they know can never be eliminated.
"If I want to operate on a particular street and ask a politician to ask the authorities not to disturb me, the politician might say: 'It's impossible to have zero arrests, so you can operate on certain hours and we will patrol after those hours' - so it's a win-win situation," Ah Hing said.
"If someone betrays me personally... I will get a few gang members together and beat him up until he's paralysed or he's a vegetable, but if the matter is really big then they'll be brought before my tai ko for a trial," Ah Hing continued.
"If my tai ko asks us to deal with someone, even if we kill that person, we won't be worried, because if the police arrest us, my Tai Ko will get me out," he added.
"Last time I was taken in the front door of the [police] lock-up, and right away I walk out of the back door."
While most middle class Malaysians have little or nothing to do with the triads, many poorer Malaysians turn to the triads when they need to borrow money and sometimes even to find jobs for a living.
If they need money, they resort to borrowing money from Ah Longs (Loan Sharks). Further, according to the news report, during the economic downturn in 1998, many Malaysians turned to the triads for work. It allowed thousand to earn a living.
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