Death railway | Thailand | Kanchanaburi | Bridge on the River Kwai | Tourism | Burma

The Death railway in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Manu tourists in Kanchanaburi are visiting The Bridge on the River Kwai. This bridge became popular by a motion picture that was released in the year of 1957, starring Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and William Holden. The film created immense curiosity among the visitors and therefore, the bridge is now one of the biggest attractions of Kanchanaburi province. Different class of tourists makes a point to visit this fabulous attraction, irrespective of being rich or poor. That is why hundreds of people travel across miles to Kanchanaburi to catch a sight of the celebrated bridge, everyday.

The location

The bridge is also known as Death railway, and it is located near the town of Kanchanaburi. It is about 130 kilometers west of Bangkok or around two hours by car from Bangkok. King Rama I was the founder of the town against a probable attack by Burmese soldiers through Three Pagodas Pass. The Death Railway extended for 415 kms from Burma’s Thanbyuzayat to Ratchaburi province’s Nong Pladuk in Bangpong District in Thailand. From the total of 415 kms of railway connection, 111 kms are in Burma and the remaining 304 km is in Thailand.


The tragedy during the construction of the bridge

Extensive numbers of prisoners were forcibly employed in the construction work of the bridge. During the construction of the Death railway, more than 13,000 prisoners (some people say more than 16,000) lost their lives or near about 38 prisoners died for every kilometer construction work for the railway. Malnutrition, fatigue, and sickness cause death of these prisoners and they were not provided with any sort of medical treatment. The horrible sufferings of the prisoners during the construction process of the bridge can only be imagined. It was a gruesome act to construct this death railway. Another estimated 80,000 civilians died also during the construction of this project.

The diet of the prisoners included salted vegetables and rice and they were served two times in a day. They were forced to carry on work up to 16 hours every day under terrible conditions. Even a small mistake of the prisoners cost them severe tortures. The level of tortures was simply inhuman. Penalties included cruel beatings, kneeling on sharp sticks, and holding a boulder for one to three hours at the same time and tied with barbed wire to a tree, and no water or food for days. That time, the Japanese commanders maintained a slogan, which was “if you work hard you will be treated well, but if you do not work hard you will be punished.”


Tourist attraction


The Death railway is now a popular tourist attraction with the bridge and the visitors can only wonder what hellish situation the prisoners went through during the construction of the bridge. Now, the grounds of the burials that hold the remains of the prisoners are nicely maintained. However, one can see through the pain and blood of the young prisoners who lost their lives at such young age just to get the railway built quickly for the Japanese.

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