Monthly Archives: January 2008

Kanchanaburi – War Cemeteries

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We visited the Kanchanaburi – War Cemetery, the resting place of thousands of POW’s who were forced into labour camps while constructing the Death Railway and Bridge On The River Kwai.

In Kanchanaburi town, there are two beautifully neatly maintained cemeteries. Both cemeteries are surrounded by beautiful gardens, well taken care by local volunteers. Flowers are often seen left on the graves by loved ones from all over the world.

We came to the cemetery in the heart of the town where they buried almost 7,000 POW’s who lost their lives in the hands of the Japanese Army, following their invasion of Thailand during World War II, when British, Dutch, Australian and American prisoners were brought to Thailand from Singapore.

A plaque reads

1939 – 1945

The Land on which this cemetery stands is the gift of the Thai people for the perpetual resting place of the sailors soldiers and airmen who are honoured here.

Chong War Cemetery

We have no time to visit The Chong Kai Cemetery, on the banks of the River Kwai. It is smaller and it buried almost 2,000 POW’s

The cemetery can be reached by boats, available at the pier in front of the town gate and also from the Bridge.

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Kanchanaburi – The War Museum

The JEATH War Museum is on the bank of the River, inside Wat Chai Chumphon temple. JEATH stands for Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland, representing the nationalities of the prisoners of war (POW’s) who were forced to work on the construction of the famous “Bridge On The River Kwai“.

This tribute was established to show actual items that were connected with the construction of the Death Railway by POW’s between 1942-1943.

The museum displays some exhibits of the terrible conditions inflicted on the many young men that died and the many that survived to tell the story. An estimated 16,000 war prisoners and over 100,000 local labourers died .

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Kanchanaburi – Bridge on the River Kwai

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Thousands of Allied Prisoners of War (PoW) and Asian labourers worked on the Death Railway under the imperial Japanese army in order to construct part of the 415 km long Burma-Thailand railway.

Most of these men were Australians, Dutch and British and they had been working steadily southwards from Thanbyuzayat (Burma) to link with other PoW on the Thai side of the railway.

This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British

Both the wooden and the adjacent steel bridge were were built by the Japanese, using prisoner of war (POW) labour, which spanned the Mae Klong river (renamed Kwa Yai river in 1960).

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Construction work started in October 1942. A year later the rail laying was completed. The wooden trestle bridge was completed in February 1943, and the steel bridge in April 1943

About 60,000 men consisting of Indian, Burmese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese and Thai labourers as well as prisoners of war took part in the construction work.

The black iron bridge was brought from Java by the Japanese to Tamarkan in 1942.

Both bridges were subjected to numerous attacks by Allied aircraft during the period December 1944 to June 1945.. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections. A daily train is still following the historical route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok railway station.

Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephants as earth moving equipment was not available.

The railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. However after the war the entire railway was removed and sold as it was deemed unsafe and politically undesirable.

The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. They were subjected to captor brutality and thus thousands perished. The men worked from dawn until after dark and often had to trudge many kilometres through the jungle to return to base camp where Allied doctors tended the injured and diseased but many died.

After the war the dead were collectively reburied in the War Cemeteries and will remain forever witness to a brutal and tragic ordeal.

Click here to view video: The Death Railway in Thailand

Bangkok Tour–Kanchanaburi

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The Bangkok tour continues……We took the package tour and visited Kanchanaburi and the surrounding areas.the RIVER KWAI, DEATH RAILWAY, DEATH WAR MUSEUM, RAILWAY MUSEUM, WAR CEMETERIES . We have opt-out the TIGER TEMPLE and SAFARI PARK because of time factor.

We reached Kanchanaburi,Thailand, an ancient Thai civilization. It is Thailand’s third largest of 76 provinces. It is located 130 km west of Bangkok and covers an area of 19,480 km². About 735,000 inhabitant are living in Kanchanaburi province which borders Myanmar (Burma) at the north-west.

Kanchanaburi is best known for its more recent history when, during World War II the Japanese Imperial Army began construction of the infamous “Death Railway” which included the Bridge Over The River Kwai.,which now acts as one of Thailand’s major tourist attractions.

The history behind the bridge however is far from ordinary. As the Japanese extended their invasion of Thailand into the West of Burma, their success was hampered by the difficulty in supplying troops with provisions and so a supply line, the railway, was built.

The Japanese, using POWs and civilian conscripts, adopted a brutal and barbaric work regime that saw the completion of the railway in one year rather than the three it was estimated to take.

The old train is now used to take tourists for a joy ride along this historic railway track, bringing them memories of the grim and brutal times of World War II in Thailand. The interior or exterior of the old train remains the same as it was during the war.

It was a truly wonderful breath-taking experience taking a fun ride in this age-old train as it steadily winds across the old railway tracks passing scenic country sides, rivers, hills and old Japanese army camps by the river.

The tour also included an hour-long elephant ride. So it was that we found ourselves seated on top of ‘Daha’, our means of mobility for the next hour. Plodding our way through the jungle the novelty soon wore off, elephants aren’t half slow! Gimmicky as it seems, elephant riding is big business in Thailand and nearly every tourist tries it out at some stage of their trip

But be warned – During March & April, Kanchanaburi is the hottest province in the country, with temperature at an average of over 40°C !

2008 countdown

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When the tower clock at Dataran Merdeka struck 12midnight , showers of colorful fire works display flashed immediately lighting up the night sky. The crowd of revellers started cheering each other and welcome the year 2008.

Revellers mostly youngsters and foreign tourists were cheering and hurling spray cans with artificial snow at each other, to say Hello 2008 and welcome the New Year.They exchanged well wishes. New Year resolutions were also made.

Some of the revellers dressed up fancifully for the countdown added excitement and fun to the countdown celebration.

Various states in the country also welcomed the New Year and it was reported that some revellers at Gurney Drive, Penang went wild during the countdown and attacked the police with empty spray cans.

Revellers partied until the wee hours of the morning both at public celebrations and private parties.

Hello! Goodbye 2007 Welcome 2008

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Happy New Year!

Fireworks light up the sky over Kuala Lumpur where thousands of Malaysians, had gathered to usher to celebrate the birth of 2008 at KLCC and Dataran Merdeka.

At Dadaran Merdeka, thousands of revellers came to welcome 2008 with the prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

The KLCC New Year countdown also displayed fireworks and a concert to entertain the crowds.

Visuallens would like to wish everybody good health, abundant joy, prosperous and a very blessed New Year 2008. May the world be peaceful and there be no war.