Sunday, 9 March 2014

Ghosts of Asian disasters

Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe (pictured), made an interesting appointment as a governor of the country’s NHK broadcasting organisation. Naoki Hyakuta has declared that Japan’s massacre of up to 350,000 civilians in the Chinese city of Nanking in 1937 never happened.

Mr Hyakuta has also written a best-selling novel, now turned into a film, glorifying Japan’s kamikaze pilots of World War Two. China and South Korea, which also suffered dreadfully at Japan’s hands, are both angry.

Ghosts are walking in Indonesia too. The Act of Killing, a film about the mass slaughter that accompanied the birth of President Suharto’s dictatorship in the mid-1960’s, has won a BAFTA award for best documentary. Perhaps half a million people were killed by death squads.

In 2012, the country’s human rights commission urged President Yudhoyono to make a formal apology, and called for the killers to be prosecuted. But the president, a former general, is the son-in-law of the then head of the army’s special forces, who was deeply implicated in the massacre, and the report has been largely ignored.

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