Doorstop Interview, Sandakan Memorial Park, Malaysia

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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25 April 2024

SUBJECTS: Anzac Day; Australia-Malaysia relationship.     

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning, everyone. I'm honoured to be here on Anzac Day on behalf of the Australian Government to pay our respects to those who served in Sandakan and the Second World War here in Malaysia. I thank Vivian Wong Shir Yee for being here on behalf of the Malaysian Government and speaking so beautifully this morning. Thank you for your reverence and your service to the Australian people here today. President Henry, thank you for the city of Sandakan for welcoming us so graciously and for helping Australians to commemorate our fallen. 

Anzac Day is our national day of remembrance. It’s a day when Australians unite around the world to pay our respects and tributes to those who have served our nation and to thank them for their service. This is sacred ground for Australians, 2,500 Australian and British soldiers were involved in the Sandakan death marches, but only six of them survived. This is a harrowing story for many Australians, but a story that must continue to be told and we come here with reverence, with respect, to remember those who have served our nation, but also to thank and pay tribute to the Malaysians who assisted the Australians and British soldiers during that difficult period. It's wonderful that we have descendants of those Malaysian locals who showed great bravery and courage and sacrifice to assist Australian soldiers during World War Two, and we pay tribute to them and their families that are here today. It's been an honour to represent Australia here, I thank the people of Malaysia, particularly the people of Sandakan for your warmth and your generosity and for helping us to commemorate this significant day for all Australians. Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Inaudible. 

ASSISTANT MINISTER: We give thanks to the people of Sandakan for allowing Australians to come here every year on 25 April to pay our respects to Australians who served in this area. We are in deep gratitude to the Malaysian people and the people of Sandakan for preserving this memorial, for keeping these beautiful parks and gardens in the magnificent state that they are. It's a great symbol of the strong bond that exists between our two nations and the people of Australia and Malaysia. It's grown even stronger in recent years with the establishment of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership around trade, around commerce, around defence, but most importantly, our people-to-people links. And we love Malaysians studying and working in Australia and they're part of the great multicultural fabric that makes Australia such a wonderful place to live.

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