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Ex-Japanese military interpreter, philanthropist Nagase dies at 93.

OKAYAMA, Japan, June 22 Kyodo

Takashi Nagase, a former Japanese military interpreter who was involved in the construction of the infamous Thailand-Burma railway during World War II and later engaged in philanthropic activities to atone for his wartime acts, died Tuesday at a hospital in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, his family said. He was 93.

The 415-kilometer railway is also known as the ''Death Railway'' as about 16,000 Allied prisoners of war, including British, Dutch and Australian nationals, as well as 80,000 to 100,000 Asian laborers died while being forced to build it.

Nagase witnessed Japanese troops torture POWs in Kanchanaburi facing the River Kwai in western Thailand in the last years of the war. Shortly after the war, he was deployed by the Allied Forces on a mission to search for the bodies of Allied soldiers who perished while building the railroad and confirmed the remains of more than 13,000 POWs.

The railway construction was made famous in the 1957 British film, ''The Bridge on the River Kwai.''

To atone for his wartime activities, Nagase visited Thailand 135 times since 1964. In 1976, he organized a meeting of reconciliation between the former Japanese army members and POWs at the railroad bridge on River Kwai.

Nagase founded the River Kwai Peace Foundation, which has given more than a thousand scholarships to students in Kanchanaburi and helped build memorials to the war dead and temples in various places in Thailand.

In 2006, Thais built a life-size statue of Nagase at a war museum in Kanchanaburi to honor his philanthropic activities.

The railway linking Thailand and Burma, now Myanmar, was completed in October 1943 after about 18 months of construction work with a labor force of some 400,000. Currently the railway operates along a portion of about 130 km in Thailand.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:9THAI
Date:Jun 27, 2011
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