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"Death Railway" proposed to be new World Heritage
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  1. #1
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    "Death Railway" proposed to be new World Heritage

    "Death Railway" in Thailand proposed to be new World Heritage
    BANGKOK, Feb 12 (TNA) - A historic railway in western Thailand constructed by Allied Prisoners of Wars (POWs) during the World War II is proposed to be a new "World Heritage".

    A former Japanese military interpreter who was involved in interrogations of World War II prisoners during the construction of the railway linking Thailand with Burma, now Myanmar, is scheduled to visit Thailand this week, beginning on February 15, to urge the Thai government to seek to have the ruins of the railway designated as a World Heritage site.

    ''I want to make the railway an antiwar symbol in order to remind the Japanese of the need to reflect on their past conduct,'' the 87-year-old former Japanese military interpreter, Takashi Nagase, who is now an English teacher in Kurashiki, Japan's Okayama Prefecture, was quoted by a news report of Kyodo News Agency as saying on Saturday.

    Kumiko Hashimoto, the wife of former Japanese prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, would accompany him as her husband, whose constituency was in Okayama, has supported his longstanding efforts to promote reconciliation between former Allied POWs and Japanese
    soldiers, said the Kyodo news reports disseminated to TNA on Sunday.

    He is scheduled to meet with a Thai member of parliament (MP) from the western Kanchanaburi bordering Myanmar, where museums related to the railway and a cemetery for Allied POWs are located.

    On February. 20, Nagase will visit the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to lobby for the site's registration by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

    Nagase witnessed Japanese troops torture POWs in Kanchanaburi in the last years of World War II.

    Shortly after the war, he was deployed by the Allied Forces on a mission to search for bodies of Allied soldiers who perished while building the railroad and confirmed the remains of more than 13,000 POWs.

    The notorious railway is known as the ''Death Railway'' as about 16,000 Allied POWs, including British, Dutch and Australian nationals, as well as 80,000 to 100,000 Asians perished while they were forced to build it.

    The 415-kilometer railway linking Thailand and Myanmar, was completed in October 1943 after about 18 months of construction work with a labor force of some 400,000.

    But most of it was abandoned due partly to high maintenance costs after the war and currently the railway operates along a portion of only about 130 kilometres in Thailand.

    To atone for his wartime activities, Nagase has visited Thailand more than 120 times since 1964.

    In 1976, he organized a meeting of reconciliation between the former Japanese army members and POWs and together with them Nagase crossed over the ''Death Railroad" bridge on the River Kwai in western Thailand.

    He has also engaged in philanthropic work for local Thai people.

    ''A lot of tourists visit the railway, but I hope there will be more and more people who come to the site to mourn the war dead,'' he said.

    His campaign is also aimed at issuing a warning to Japanese society, which he perceives as ''increasingly heading toward war'' again.

    Nagase said he has been concerned about attempts by some Japanese to whitewash wartime atrocities.

    The man, who believes the World Heritage designation of the railway is his last mission in his lifetime, said that since he first unveiled the idea last summer he has received no objections.

    ''When I introduced my plan at an annual memorial service to commemorate POWs at the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Yokohama last August, representatives of Britain and other Allied countries all welcomed the idea,'' Nagase said.

    He organizes a memorial service every year for Commonwealth soldiers who died in detention in Japan during World War II.

    The British government honored him in 2002 for his role in making efforts to reconcile Japan with its former British POWs.

    Some former Japanese soldiers told him that even though they cannot openly campaign for the World Heritage status because they abused the POWs and Asian workers, they would be glad if the railway which they built is recognized by UNESCO, according to Nagase.

    ''Many infamous war-related sites, including the A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima, have been registered as World Heritage sites; so why not this railway?'' Nagase said.

    ''Former POWs would not tolerate lobbying for UNESCO designation by ordinary Japanese, but some of them acknowledge my postwar activities.
    That is why I can be proactive,'' he said.

    Nagase said he could ask museums related to the railway in Kanchanaburi to collect signatures from visitors who support the idea of the World Heritage registration.

    The railway was the subject of the famous 1957 film ''The Bridge on the River Kwai. (TNA)--E002

  2. #2
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    Highly laudable, but what would be better is Japan's school history books accurately reporting on the conduct of Japan's military in the 1930's and 40's, not only in Thailand and Burma, but China (Manchuria) also.

  3. #3
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    Having lived in Japan for 2 years, they have a very bios prospective on the horrors of war, but then they all ways bring up Hiroshima and claim they are also the victim, as Japanese consider every thing as even. The history books in Japanese schools should be updated to give a more accurate account of this part of history, specially as most people were born after this time and can not be blamed for there ancestors.

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