Close to 100 people from around the world gathered at Chinguashi in Taipei County yesterday to attend the annual memorial service in honor of former prisoners of war (POWs) who were interned in Taiwan by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
The annual service, which was started in 1997, was held by the Taiwan POW Camps Memorial Society, an organization dedicated to recognizing the sufferings and sacrifice of former Commonwealth and allied prisoners of war.
The society has been working on restoring the roll of names of the POWs who were detained in the Kinkaseki POW camp and holding activities to remind people of this part of history.
PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES
"One of our objectives is to help educate the people of Taiwan about this little-known part of their history," said Michael Hurst, the director of the society.
"But, most importantly, we want to remind people that none of us should forget the bitter times through which the POWs suffered for us. We owe these men a debt that can never be repaid," Hurst said.
John Emmett was only one of the POWs interned at Kinkaseki that revisited the camp and attended the service this year.
With the deep tones of a bugle signalling the end of the remembrance service in the background, Emmett said in a trembling voice that his journey back to the camp brought closure for him.
"I do not hate the Japanese. They just did what they were told," said Emmett. "I've already found real peace of mind."
According to Hurst, POWs who were captured by the Japanese in Singapore or Malaysia during the war were forced to work in Taiwan's largest copper mine at the Kinkaseki POW camp. The mine was a major source of income for the Japanese army.
Chang A-hui (
"I remember seeing them walking in a long line and going down to work in the copper mine. But it was not possible for us to talk to them," Chang told the Taipei Times at yesterday's service.
"It was really unfortunate for them. Hundreds of them died," Chang said. "I think it is meaningful for us to hold this service to remember them."
According to Ted Lipman, executive director of the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien delivered a message by wire and sent greetings to veterans and their families.
Lipman said during the service that everyone should be grateful for the POWs' contribution and sacrifice.
"Some of them were maltreated, killed or even forced to work till they died," Lipman said.
"I believe that they were not only our heroes but also yours [Taiwanese people]. They battled for peace and our freedom."
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