NAGASAKI – Two former Dutch prisoners of war who were detained in Nagasaki during World War II and survived the 1945 atomic bombing of the city applied Thursday for recognition by the government as radiation illness sufferers so they can receive medical benefits.
Ronald Scholte, 84, who resides in the southern Netherlands, and Armand Busselaar, 84, from The Hague, filed the application with the city through Nobuto Hirano, a representative of a Nagasaki-based group supporting atomic bomb survivors abroad.
The move comes on the heels of a legal amendment passed in June that enables survivors of the U.S. atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima who live outside Japan to apply for recognition without coming to the country.
If their applications are accepted, certification of their status as official atomic bomb survivors will be issued at an overseas diplomatic mission.
Atomic bomb survivors abroad are required to come to Japan to apply for government recognition under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law. But many survivors cannot do so because of old age or health problems.
The Nagasaki Municipal Government will examine the applications of the two Dutch men in advance of when the legal revision comes into effect later this year.
If they are confirmed as atomic bomb survivors, their applications will be formally accepted after the revised law takes effect.
The certification would then be issued through the Japanese Embassy in the Netherlands so that they can receive medical benefits there.
It is rare for former POWs held by the Imperial Japanese Army to file for recognition as atomic bomb survivors.
Observers say the government needs to take concrete steps to fully inform other former POWs of atomic bomb-related relief measures they are entitled to receive.
The two Dutch men became aware of the possibility of obtaining health care benefits without actually coming to Japan through a local supporters’ group, Pelita, this summer.
There are an estimated 70 or more Dutch atomic bomb survivors, and similar applications are expected to be filed with the Japanese government in the future.
Scholte has said he wants to be recognized as a survivor and receive support as soon as possible because of his age.
It appears possible to prove they are bomb survivors because the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the city government both keep lists of the names of former POWs.
When Hirano conducted a survey in the Netherlands in mid-September by interviewing former POWs and local supporters, he received an application from Scholte to file on the Dutchman’s behalf.
Scholte was digging an air raid shelter near the POW prison camp in Nagasaki, shortly before the Aug. 9, 1945, bombing.
He said that he suddenly saw a dazzling light and that the blast blew him 3 meters into the shelter. He lost consciousness for a while but received no major injuries.
Five years ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent radiation treatment.