For many years, the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai has attracted a great deal of tourists to the city of Kanchanaburi. The bridge owes its worldwide fame to a novel by French author Pierre Boulle and a distinguished film by David Lean. However, due to its natural beauty, the province, which is located around 130 kilometres west of Bangkok, is also a popular holiday area.
With the creation of the Death Railway in the Second World War, the Japanese planned to establish an alternative supply route across South East Asia built by POW’s and forced laborers from all over Asia.
The bridge has been moved from its original location, as originally, the railway viaduct was situated four kilometres further north. Despite this, the historic bridge on the River Kwai has lost nothing of its fascination and historic significance and its somewhat plain and unspectacular construction of steel and concrete is in stark contrast to its moving and dramatic history.
The longer the construction work continued, the worse the situation grew for the totally exhausted POW’s. The back-breaking work, continuous under nourishment, the outbreak of cholera and the daily torture by the Japanese, took its toll and thousands of men who died.
In 1945, the Japanese destroyed all the documents that related to the death of the POW’s and forced laborers. However, it is estimated that around 16,000 allied soldiers and up to 100,000 forced laborers from each corner of Asia perished. The 7,000 gravestones of the POW’s that lie within Kanchanaburi Cemetery and the legendary River Kwai are a tragic reminder of one of the saddest chapters in the history of Thailand.