June 27, 2010
Source: Japan Times
On June 16, the last day of the Diet session, the Diet in a suprapartisan vote managed to enact a bill to give a one-shot allowance to Japanese who were interned in Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia and used for forced labor after World War II.
The new law went into effect on that day. Of some 600,000 interned POWs, 70,000 to 80,000 are believed to be still alive. Such an allowance — ranging from Â¥250,000 to Â¥1.5 million — will be paid to former POWs who were alive on June 16, depending on the length of their internment. The families of those who die later will be entitled to the allowance.
The law is significant in that the allowance amounts to state compensation. This is a departure from the attitude of the Liberal Democratic Party governments. On the basis of a 1984 report by an advisory body for the head of the Management and Coordination Agency, an LDP government refused to give any compensation to those who suffered from Japan’s war in the modern era. Thus the former LDP-Komeito administration gave only a travel coupon or a memento worth Â¥100,000 to former POW internees.
The Finance Ministry and the internal affairs ministry strongly opposed the latest bill, thinking that it will trigger other war-related compensation demands. Therefore a clause that called for the study of a relief measure for those from former Japanese colonies who became internment victims was deleted.
But Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reportedly instructed the Democratic Party of Japan to push the bill in the Diet. Since the new law paves the way for possible government compensation for other sufferers from the war, the DPJ administration needs to quickly establish a coherent policy to cope with demands for such compensation.Many war victims, including former military sex slaves and sufferers from air raids, are getting very old.
Beside the allowances, the new law calls on the government to unearth facts about the internments in Siberia and other areas. Japan must get Russia to fully cooperate in identifying the burial places of dead POWs, recovering their bones and collecting relevant Soviet documents.