There are three museums in the town dedicated to the death railway. The one we found most interesting is the newest, opened in 2003, the Thailand Burma Railway Center, which is alongside the main cemetery. Here you learn why the railway was so important to the Japanese and get a grim insight into how the prisoners lived and died. The story of the railroad is enhanced by accounts of what happened after the war and what is happening today to remember those who died.
There may be lots of things about the book and the film that are not historically accurate. But that is not so important. What is important is that without them the world’s attention would not have been focused on the death railway. The tale of a small bridge opened our eyes to a very sad saga. The bridge here at Kanchanaburi was one of 688 constructed along the railway. Do you know the names of any of the others?
Kanchanaburi’s other museums are the JEATH Museum, which is three kilometers south of the main railway station; and the World War II Museum, which is close to the bridge. The JEATH museum (the letters JEATH represent the first letter of Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland, the countries who lost soldiers during the railway construction) is filled with World War II memorabilia, including frightening sketches some of the prisoners made of the various forms of torture they endured. The World War II museum is a bit like a Robinson’s department store, with such a wide range of items on view. Although there are numerous exhibits about the death railway you can also view pictures of Miss Thailand from the 1930s as well as portraits of the museum founders. Probably one of the most important items is a glass tomb containing the remains of some of the Asian laborers, who are often not as well remembered as the allied POWs.
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