Thursday, April 07, 2011

Never enough on Sandakan Death March

Kota Kinabalu: Several detailed books have been written on Sabah's 1945 Death March. Will another on the same subject be one too many?

Paul Ham, a veteran Australian journalist and a former Sunday Times London correspondent, doesn't think so.

"History is never complete," Paul Ham argued, especially when the perspective of many local people have not been sufficiently tapped about the Japanese occupation of North Borneo and its impacts on the local community.

So he is going ahead with a new book about the Japanese occupation of North Borneo, setting the Death March in the context of the overall picture, Paul said.

"My aim is to set it in the context of the local people and the impact of the Japanese occupation on the local community," explained Paul who paid generous tributes to authors before him, citing Lynette Silver, for instance.

"I greatly admire the amazing pioneering research job done by Lynette, I don't pretend to improve upon her research, but I would like to just give a slightly different perspective," added Paul who trekked tough sections of the Death March trail in March with several friends from Sydney, guided by trail blazer Tham Yau Kong and group.

He said he had spoken to a number of local people who related a very familiar story of Japanese occupying their villages, taking their food and driving them into the jungle, from where they launched hostile reprisals.

"And there are some amazing stories of courage and heroism which are independent of the Death March," Paul noted.

"It's an illuminating experience for me just talking to so many local people," he added. "I think the problem often with Anglo Saxon reading of history is they tend to be rather egocentric and we need to balance that with a local perspective.

"I am not directing that on any particular historian, just saying that we do tend to look at the past through our own prism." But he is not new to writing books, though.

Continue reading at: Never enough on Sandakan Death March

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