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Two Japanese Who Fought for 40 years With Malaysian Communists Head Home

January 11, 1990 GMT

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ Two Japanese men who fought for their country in World War II and then took up arms with Malaysian Communist guerrillas for more than 40 years were on their way home today.

Shigeyuki Hashimoto, 71, and Kiyoaki Tanaka, 77, flew to Bangkok today from the southern Thai town of Hat Yai, near the Malaysian jungle border they left after the Communist insurgency was disbanded in December.

Japanese reporters who accompanied the men quoted them as saying they joined the Communist Party of Malaysia to help the country gain independence from Britain.

Independence came in 1957, but the insurgency continued. The two Japanese did not want to surrender before the party was disbanded because they feared that would hurt its morale, the reporters said.

″They said they never forgot about Japan and had wished to go back since the beginning,″ said Hiroshi Inomata, first secretary at the Japanese Embassy.

″But the time was not ripe for them to do that. They didn’t want to surrender. Now that the peace agreement has been made, they are free to go.″

″Tanaka said there are many good things and many bad thing about the years they spent in the jungle,″ Inomata said. ″They had many good friends who were quite cooperative and trusted each other. They said they will miss their friends and they promised to write letters.″

″They said they are happy to be going home but I think they might have some uneasiness as well,″ he said.

The Japanese reporters said the two, who joined the Communists in 1945 after serving in Japan’s Imperial Army, knew of the enormous changes in Japan since World War II from their shortwave radio.

The Japanese left the former Communist headquarters in the jungle on Wednesday and went to a military camp in Hat Yai. There, Hashimoto was met by two younger brothers and Tanaka by a daughter and his nephew.

They also had a party with their former comrades before leaving Hat Yai, the reporters said.

Hashimoto arrived at Bangkok airport in a wheelchair, clutching a walking stick and appearing very fragile. Tanaka also had a walking stick.

Japanese Embassy officials helped Hashimoto out of the wheelchair and into a limousine for the ride to a hospital for a checkup along with Tanaka.

They were to leave for Japan on Saturday.

Hashimoto, from Kanagawa prefecture, adjoining Tokyo, is to stay at a hospital in Tokyo because of his high blood pressure while Tanaka will return to his hometown in Kumamoto prefecture in southern Japan, an embassy official said. He said Tanaka’s wife was still alive.

The embassy official, Hirofumi Takemoto, said the two men had worked for a private Japanese company in Malaysia before they joined the Japanese army during World War II.

The Communist insurgency - one of the world’s longest - officially ended with the signing Dec. 2 of a peace accord between the insurgents and Thai and Malaysian officials.

British Commonwealth forces fought bloody battles with the insurgents during what was known as the 1948-1960 ″emergency.″

Fighting continued after that on a lesser scale, and the two Japanese told reporters they engaged in combat in the 1960s.

Thai-Malaysian military strikes and a Thai amnesty badly hurt the movement, and its leader, Chin Peng, said only 1,200 guerrillas had been operating along the 375-mile Thai-Malaysian frontier in recent years.