Archive for December 2nd, 2009

Kanchanaburi and the World War 2 Thai-Burma railway

2 December 2009

Contributed by John Griffith

Between December 1942 and October 1943, 60,000 Allied Prisoners of war and 177,000 Tamil, Malay and Burmese worked for the Japanese to build a strategically (for the Japanese) important railway through the jungles of Burma and Thailand. For nearly two hundred kilometres of its journey the railway ran alongside a river called the Khwae Noi or ‘little river’. Around 12,500 Allied soldiers and more than 85,000 Asian labourers died during its construction and it became known as the ‘Death Railway’.

In Sept. 2009, while holidaying in Thailand I visited Kanchanaburi. Today the town is a pleasant, easy going city with a population of about 52,000 located about 150 km to the north-west of Bangkok. During WW2 however, it was the location of the Japanese construction headquarters for the railway’s construction on the Thailand side. Today it carries no visible evidence of the horrors which took place there, and in the dozens of other camps scattered along the length of the railway, during those terrible years. However a visit to the Commonwealth war cemeteries in the area quickly reveals the stark reality of the deaths which took place as the railway was built. The cemetery at Kanchanaburi holds the graves of approx 5,000 Commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch soldiers and it is located very close to the site of the actual base camp where many of them died. Read more