19 Dec 2008

POWs used in Japanese PM's family coal mine

4:08 pm on 19 December 2008

The Japanese government has admitted that Australian, British and Dutch prisoners held by Japan during World War II dug coal for the mining company owned by the family of current prime minister Taro Aso.

The conservative leader, who has long avoided the sensitive topic, comes from a wealthy family that runs Aso Mining Co, along with cement interests.

Japan's Welfare Ministry has released documents showing that 300 British, Dutch and Australian prisoners of war worked at the company's Yoshikuma coal mine.

The documents say two Australian POWs died, but the ministry has blacked out the causes of their deaths as well as other personal information, citing privacy.