Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok recalled all the horrifying moments he encountered during the occupation of the Southeast Asian country, formerly known as Malaya, by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War II.
While speaking to the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun, the 95-year-old business magnate explained that he agreed to do the interview so that Japanese people would know what really happened at the time, details that are reportedly being kept out of their school textbooks.
“In a town called Ulu Tiram, about 30 miles (50 kilometres) away from Johor Bahru where I used to live, a group of Eurasian families was massacred,”
Kuok, who had lived through the occupation that lasted from 1941 to 1945
, told the newspaper via Malaysiakini
He further noted that he knew many of the victims of the grim incident and that they were killed and raped.
“After the Japanese invaded Malaya, about 80 or 90 Eurasian people took refuge in the town because it had a small Roman Catholic church,” Kuok said. “One day, some Japanese soldiers touched the Eurasian girls. Enraged by this behaviour, the Eurasian men took out their revolvers and asked (them) to stop that nonsense.”
After that encounter, the Japanese left and returned after several days with more men, the businessman and investor recounted, adding that the soldiers, “which was about probably 60 or 80 people, surrounded the whole compound and killed everyone.”
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“One of the victims was my close friend. He was an Indian who was close to the Eurasian families and he was there at the time. About 15 or 20 people that I knew, including my school teacher, were killed in this one incident,” he continued.
Kuok and his family took refuge in a pineapple plantation at the time of the incident.
“We passed by Ulu Tiram about 10 days after the incident,” he said. “There I saw two skinny men who didn’t seem to recognise anything or anyone. They just kept talking to themselves about what they had seen. They had gone out of their minds because of the massacre they had seen.”
According to Kuok, many people were killed during the occupation, including some of his classmates in the Johor Bahru Chinese school, who were daughters of a member of the “China Relief Fund.”
“This fund was started by Tan Kah Kee and it collected money to donate to China for war relief,” Kuok explains, adding, “When I went back to Johor Bahru from the plantation, I went to look for my classmates and was told that they had been raped, brutally killed and buried in a sports field together with their whole family. Only two sons, who had been sent to schools in China, survived.”
Kuok, who was born to a Chinese-Malaysian family in 1923, worked for a trading company called Mitsubishi Shoji during the war and was made to study Japanese via a textbook titled “Nihongo Made Easy.”
Although his boss is Japanese, Kuok described him as a wonderful man who hated what was happening at the time.
“The Japanese army said that they were out to create the ‘Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’. But the ‘co-prosperity’ meant Japan taking 90 percent and you 10 percent,” he said. “Japan is a nation of honest, hard-working people. They only wanted to lead normal decent lives. They were misled by a handful of criminal-minded men.”
In the interview, Kuok strongly expressed his hopes that “such horrible misdeeds are never done again.”