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Last known Death March track cutter dies
Published on: Sunday, November 04, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: Tuaty Akau, 105, the last known Death March track cutter who hacked the mid track from Bauto through thick jungle, has died.Tuaty (pic) died last Monday (Oct 29), which ironically coincided with his birthday.

Hailed from Kg Buis, about 8km from Bauto, near Telupid, Tuaty joined his father-in-law who was recruited by the Japanese to cut the trail to mid track passage ready to march hundreds of Australian and British prisoners of war from Sandakan to Ranau.

Tuaty had told Daily Express in an investigative interview he hated the job because the dense jungle made hacking tough and the Japanese guards expected hard work.

"One time my fellow track cutter stopped for a cigarette and was hit on the head with a rod," he said.

He also remembered seeing weak prisoners passing and out of pity offered rice but was scolded by the guards.

But Tuaty made headline news in Daily Express after Tham Yau Kong accidentally discovered him in early June 2016 through his son Maidin while leading a group of royal British engineers on a full length 265km Death March trek from Sandakan to Ranau.

"I was shocked that 70 years after the Death March, I was looking at a living witness, immediately the Death March story came alive," recalled Tham, who had been guiding Death March groups since 2005.

But after his discovery, Tuaty made the most impact in putting to bed a raging dispute between Australian historians Dr Kevin Smith and Lynette Silver with his direct witness verdict that the alternate route propounded by Smith never happened.

He said he never cut the trail into the side of the Labuk River or crossed it to old Kg Miruru except at Tampias and concluded that "tondu" (the woman in Dusun) is right.

For his verdict on a historical fact which was later verified by an independent probe, the Forestry Department, a magnificent Tuaty Gallery had been built at a breath-taking site inside the Bauto Forest Reserve.

Tuaty is survived by nine children, 30 grandchildren and 50 great grandchildren.

- Kan Yaw Chong



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