What it was like to live through the Japanese occupation

Siti Rohana Idris

KOTA BHARU: Three days of enduring hunger as well as witnessing rotting dead bodies - these were among the experiences of the Japanese occupation of Malaya shared by a senior citizen from Kampung Semut Api here.

Husain Hasan, 94, remembers vividly the horrors villagers had to endure at the hands of their captors, even though more than half a century has passed.

Met at his home, Husain, who now has hearing difficulties, was in high spirits as he reviewed the episodes in his life which he had described as traumatic.

“On the night the Japanese army arrived in 1941, the villagers and I were watching a spiritual ritual being done near PCB (Pantai Cahaya Bulan).

“Not long after, several Japanese soldiers yelled to announce their arrival and ordered us to run.

“That night, battles broke out between the Japanese and British soldiers. Many people died either in the fighting or by drowning at sea in their bid to escape,” he said.

Husain, who was 21 at the time, said the din from the battle was overwhelming, with the sound of gunfire and cries. He also saw with his own eyes a Japanese soldier beheading his British opponent.

Husain and his family wasted no time in saving themselves. They took a sampan and ‘camped out’ in the ocean for several days. He said other villagers also did the same.

With only some rice and biscuits to tide them over, he said they cooked rice on the sampan, while at the same time, taking care not to give away their positions with the smoke.

“After days spent hiding, our food supply eventually ran out. We starved for about three days before we worked up the courage to make it to shore,” he said.

That was when he saw scores of bodies strewn by the beach. The corpses, he said, were left to rot and were not burnt or buried.

Husain said the Japanese occupation was a harrowing time for the people, both mentally and physically. The people, he said, also suffered as they had no access to food.

“Most of us ate rice just once a day. The rest of the time, we relied on tapioca.

“Many people were tortured by the Japanese and forced to become unpaid labourers. They were also forced to drink soap water. Many were killed if they did not obey instructions.

“Our ordeal ended when the British came back to seize the country, and things got better when we gained our independence on August 1957,” he said. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd