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Govt could decide to repatriate soldiers

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 5/10/2016

The government is going to reconsider the long-held policy of not repatriating the bodies of soldiers buried in overseas cemeteries.

There are 36 Kiwi soldiers buried in Malaysia, killed during the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War, and there have been calls from their families and opposition politicians to bring them home.

From 1948 to 1967, soldiers who died serving overseas were buried in the nearest suitable Commonwealth or allied forces cemeteries.

In addition to those buried in Malaysia, 35 were buried in Korea and eight in Japan.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Craig Foss has instructed the Veterans' Advisory Board to consider the non-repatriation policy and report to him by March next year.

"While successive governments have maintained this policy, it has become increasingly clear that the rationale behind it needs further investigation," he said on Wednesday.

"While many of those advocating for change are focused on the personnel buried in Malaysia, I expect the board to consider the policy in relation to all veterans and dependents who died while serving overseas between 1948 and mid-1970."

The board will consider the wishes of the next of kin, cultural issues such as tikanga Maori, logistics and how to best manage foreign policy implications.

In June this year, the bodies of 33 Australian soldiers buried in Malaysia and Singapore were brought home.

Mr Foss says the board will consider lessons learned from that.

It's a change of attitude by the government since Prime Minister John Key said in November last year he thought the non-repatriation policy was the right one.

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