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In 1943 thousands of Allied prisoners-of -war (POW) and Asian labourers worked here under the Imperial Japanese Army in order to construct part of the 4 15 k m long Burma-Thailand railway. Most of these men were Australians, Dutch and British and they had been working steadily southwards from Thanbyuzayat to link with other POW on the Thai side of the railway. This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burma front where the Japanese were fighting the British. Japanese Army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephant as earth moving equipment was not available. The railway line originally ran within 50 metres of the Three Pagodas 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 three large cemeteries shown below and will remain forever witness to a brutal and tragic ordeal.

Asian Labourers 2000,000 +/- 80,000+/-
British P.O.W. 30,000 6,540
Dutch P.O.W. 18,000 2,830
Australian P.O.W. 13,000 2,710
American P.O.W. 700+/- 356 (Buried in U.S.A)
Japanese and Korean 15,000 1,000

Construction time for the railway was 17 month. Period of effective use was 21 months ending in June 1945. The railway line was dismantled by the British after the war as it was unsafe. It was later relaid along the section from The Bridge on the River Kwai to Nam Tok, a distance of 130kms. It is along this section that todays tourists can relive the feelings of the war.


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