by Liu Fang
THE HAGUE, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Japan should acknowledge the Japanese military atrocities during the occupation of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and compensate surviving Dutch victims, J.F. van Wagtendonk, president of the Hague-based Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts told Xinhua.
Earlier in January, the Dutch foundation has sent such a petition addressed to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe via the Japanese ambassador in The Hague after Japan and South Korea reached an accord to purportedly bring an end to a lengthy dispute between both countries over the former's culpability and accountability for the "comfort women" issue.
"Apparently Japan has the funds to compensate its war time victims. Money alone does not compensate the immeasurable and painful experiences and incurable physical and psychological wounds. Nor can it be limited to Korean 'comfort women' only. Other victims of the Japanese military during World War II demand from Japan acknowledgement and compensation," said the petition.
For the Dutch from Dutch East Indies, the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts can, with the Japanese government, establish a Foundation for the purpose of providing moral and financial support to the surviving victims of the Japanese military atrocities and destruction. Japanese war time companies could contribute to the Foundation too, thus settling Japanese honorary debts, concluded the petition, of which Xinhua has got a copy.
Between 300,000 to 350,000 Dutch people were in the former Dutch colony in 1942 when Japan invaded. Between 100,000 to 120,000 were sent into concentration camps, and about 40,000 military and civil servants were locked up in Prisoners of War camps. More than 160,000 were oppressed outside of the concentration camps, but suffered as badly of the Japanese military terror. More than 45,000 Dutch died and more than 75,000 of the surviving Dutch suffered incurable disorders, according to statistics from the foundation.
"This is only a rough estimation. They are still finding secret cemeteries there [in Indonesia]. Besides, Indonesia lost 2 million people or even more during the war," said Mr. Van Wagtendonk.
"The Japanese military were brutal. They conducted deliberately war crimes and one of the crimes was 'comfort women'. We estimate there were about 400 Dutch girls taken from the camps to become 'comfort women'," he added.
The majority of the Dutch "comfort women" did not come forward to tell their stories because of pains and shame. For those who had came forward, 78 Dutch girls and a small number of Dutch boys were compensated by the Asian Women's Fund, a private fund set up in 1994 to distribute monetary compensation to "comfort women", which was partly financed by the Japanese government and dissolved in 2007.
"Administratively it was done correctly, but this was a not real apology. One of the Dutch 'comfort women', Ellen Corry van der Ploeg, who is dead now, refused to accept the compensation," Mr. Van Wagtendonk told Xinhua.
Ms. Van der Ploeg was one of the few Dutch "comfort women" who came forward in the 1990s. "I was very annoyed with the Japanese people for their lack of self-criticism and responsibility. This is why I refused to accept the money the Japanese government offered to the Dutch victims of forced prostitution," she explained when telling her story in a brochure entitled "Eyewitness of War" published by the Japanese Honorary Debts Foundation.
As part of a latest deal reached last December, Japan agreed to pay 1 billion yen (8.3 million U.S. dollars) from its national budget to create a new foundation to support the former "comfort women".
"Women were coerced to be sex slaves, but in the deal 'coercion' is not mentioned any more. And the deal links the compensation with the removal of the statue 'Young Comfort Woman' erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. So it is not a real apology, but a political deal," analyzed Mr. Van Wagtendonk.
In the petition addressed to the Japanese premier, the Dutch foundation stressed that "for the authenticity of your personal apology and the payment of 1 billion yen to the surviving former military sex slaves of Korea, no strings -- which are not acceptable to the surviving victims, can be attached."
The foundation has more than 100,000 registered claimants when it was formed in 1990s. In the past decades, it has been engaged as a voluntary organization fighting for justice and compensation for the Dutch victims who suffered in the hands of Japanese military during the WWII. Now it has support from about 5000 donators.
"Now between 75,000 to 80,000 of our members already died. Among the 350,000 Dutch in Dutch East Indies, only 45,000 are still alive. Everyday they are less. The majority are over 80 years old. If you are cynical, you can say that 'after ten years, they are all dead'," deplored Mr. Van Wagtendonk.
The 78-year-old volunteer was born in the Dutch East Indies. He had his grandfather and his father executed by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. His two-year-old younger brother died of a horrible accident in the concentration camp in Java. He is a trained economist and had an international career with Shell before retirement.
"To be the president of this foundation is a volunteer job for me, but I am full time thinking about it. I have the ability to deal with the trauma in my own way, it is my character and my optimism in the life. But the majority of the victims still have the trauma. They should be compensated," he told Xinhua.
For him, an apology in just a letter is not an apology. "An apology must come with compensation. What's more, it is so easily to say compensation, you can never compensate for what others suffered because of you."
And, an apology is always a consideration. "If the Japanese politicians are not going to the Yasukuni Shrine any more, then people will believe that their apology is sincere," he added. The notorious shrine honors millions of war dead as well as 14 convicted Class-A war criminals.
As to the compensation to Dutch victims, Mr. Van Wagtendonk said Japan could pay individually or set a fund with which descendants of the victims can get a token of money to study or do business.
Up till now, the Dutch foundation has sent 254 petitions to the Japanese embassy in The Hague. Its members keep protesting at the Japanese embassy on the second Tuesday of every month. "It doesn't matter Japan accepts it or not. Japan will continuously be haunted by what its Imperial Army did during the second world war," concluded Mr. Van Wagtendonk.