Malaysian tourism authorities recently restored and unveiled a World War II memorial for Japanese soldiers in Kedah. The stone monument was built in 1941 to commemorate three Japanese soldiers killed on site while guarding a bridge against the British and Allied troops.
Malaysians were, however, enraged by the accompanying sign next to the restored monument, “History of Three Japanese Heroes Who Conquered the Alor Setar Bridge.” The monument has been decried by citizens as insensitive and inappropriate to the history of Malaysians.
Protestors from the National Patriots Association and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) demanded that the sign be taken down and the monument be demolished. The Japanese committed atrocious rapes, beheadings, and other war crimes in Malaysia and Singapore during its almost four-year occupation in World War II.
Members from the MCA responded in protest by hanging a banner on the monument which says, “Heroes monument for those who fought Japan.”
The restoration of the 1.8-meter monument was funded by Japan. Malaysian state tourism committee chairman Mohamad Asmirul Anuar Aris said that, “We are trying to bring more tourists to Kedah and it is part of our attempt to upkeep historical sites.”
Kedah is home to UNESCO-recognized cultural heritage site, Bujang Valley. But Malaysian authorities have been criticised for its failure to protect and properly respond to Kedah’s Lembah Bujang temples and tombs from a secret demolition conducted by a land developer in 2013. Researchers were alarmed to discover that a two-thousand-year-old Hindu candi or temple was destroyed and its rubble “cast aside in a pile of debris.” Datuk Nadarayan of the Bujang Valley Study Circle described the demolition of the ancient historical site as “akin to murder.” Lembah Bujang is considered by experts and the international community as Malaysia’s richest archaeological site.
In response to the outrage caused by the controversial Japanese monument, chairman Aris apologised for the “error in translation” regarding the sign. The sign has since been taken down. The government, however, refused to demolish the memorial despite the national outcry saying that “It has been there since 1941.”