Rama I founded Kanchanaburi in the 1800s as a fortress on
the traditional Burmese invasion route through the Three Pagodas
Pass. The present provincial capital, situated at the confluence
of the Khwae Noi and Khwae Yai Rivers, is a relatively new
town founded by King Rama III in 1833, about 18 km from the
the Second World War, Kanchanaburi became a base of operations
for the Japanese in their bid to invade Burma and British
India. Some 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and 300,000 Asian
laborers were pressed into service on the infamous Death Railway.
The 414-km Thailand-Burma railroad, built during 1942-43,
followed a winding path along the Khwae Noi River valley,
linking Nong Pladuk in Thailand with Thanbyuzayat in Burma.
The railway was designed to act as a westwards supply route,
bypassing Allied-controlled shipping lanes.
railway passed through mountainous, jungle terrain that required
deep rock cuttings, long bridges and supporting structures.
Many thousands of prisoners and coolies died during the construction,
the result of malnutrition, exhaustion, disease and brutal
treatment by their captors. It is said that one man died for
each railway sleeper laid. Many of the dead prisoners of war
were interred in two large cemeteries near Kanchanaburi town,
while countless Asian laborers were buried where they fell.
Death Railway was in use for only 20 months before being bombed
by Allied forces. After the war, the railway fell into disrepair
and today little remains of it.
story of the Death Railway was immortalized in the famous
novel "Bridge Over the River Kwai" by Pierre Boulle, and the
David Lean movie of the same name. Every year, the bombing
of the bridge is commemorated in a spectacular light-and-sound
show, held at night-time at the present bridge. The spectacular
is held during the first two weeks of December every year
and attracts thousands of tourists from overseas and Thailand.
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