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‘My close friend killed, classmates raped’: Robert Kuok tells of horrors during Japanese occupation

Malay Mail logo Malay Mail 16/8/2019 Zurairi Ar
Robert Kuok et al. looking at each other: Business tycoon Robert Kuok leaves Ilham Tower after attending his first meeting with the Council of Elders in Kuala Lumpur May 22, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim © Provided by Malay Mail Sdn Bhd Business tycoon Robert Kuok leaves Ilham Tower after attending his first meeting with the Council of Elders in Kuala Lumpur May 22, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — Billionaire Robert Kuok gave a rare interview to the media today, speaking about the brutal killings and rape against people close to him during the Japanese occupation of Malaya.

Speaking to Osaka-based Asahi Shimbun, the Malaysian tycoon said he had agreed to the interview since he wants Japanese youths to learn what happened more than seven decades ago.

“I want the younger generation to know the history,” he told the paper, in the interview where he mostly spoke about the fighting in the Asia-Pacific during World War II. 

“Once, a young Japanese woman who was our family friend asked me to talk about the war. After I told her about my experiences for 10 to 15 minutes, she said, ‘I cannot believe you. What you have said was not in the Japanese history textbooks.’ 

“I was shocked. Although I had not seen the killings, I had heard a lot of tragic stories and many people I knew were killed,” he added.

He related that a close ethnic Indian friend of his was among those killed by Japanese soldiers, after a group of Eurasian families rose up against them for molesting a girl.

“About 15 or 20 people that I knew, including my school teacher, were killed in this one incident,” Kuok was quoted as saying.

He also said that his classmates from the Johor Baru Chinese school were killed. They were daughters of a member of the China Relief Fund, that collected donations for the war relief in China.

“When I went back to Johor Baru 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,” he reportedly said.

Kuok also related that he once worked for Japanese trading company Mitsubishi Shoji, and because of that had learned the Japanese language.

“I still can speak some Japanese. I will not get lost in Ginza because I can read the signs. Japan is my favourite holiday destination,” he told the paper.

Kuok, however, said he feels that Japan is “a nation of honest, hard-working people” who wanted to lead normal decent lives but “misled by a handful of criminal-minded men”.

The Empire of Japan invaded British Malaya and occupied it between 1941 and 1945, until its surrender to the Allied Forces.

The Federation of Malaya would afterwards be administered again by the British until its Independence in 1957, and later form Malaysia with Singapore, North Borneo (now Sabah), and Sarawak in 1963.

The so-called “Sugar King” is now the 104th richest man in the world according to Forbes, down from 96th place in last year’s edition.

Now based in Hong Kong, he was part of the Council of Eminent Persons that advised Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his Cabinet in the first 100 days of Pakatan Harapan’s election victory.

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(Provided by Reuters)

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