If you’re over 40, you’ll likely remember the classic film Bridge Over the River Kwai. If you’re younger and think that The Beach (Leonardo DeCaprio) is the only famous movie filmed in Thailand, then I urge you to watch Bridge Over the River Kwai. For it’s vistas of Thai countryside and of course the lesson in world history. (note – there are varying opinions on how realistic the movie is most say the conditions in the film far understate the harsh conditions on the ground, but still, the movie gives you an idea of what took place historically at this location)
I won’t drone on about the history lesson. You can google it if you want the more in depth story. The short story. In WWII the Japanese military built a 415km railway to connect Thailand with Burma for the purpose of goods supply. As with many construction projects during wartime it was not an easy task and many people suffered for what was seen (at the time) as the greater good. Prisoners of War (POWs); British, Australian, Dutch and American, as well as laborers from local Asian countries were used as forced slave labor to complete the project. Working conditions were horrific. The railway (and preparing the land for it) was done entirely by hand. Imagine trying to bore through a rock cliff with only hammers and pickaxes. More than 300,000 people lost their lives in the name of ‘progress’. Historians have named this the Death Railway with good reason.
Bridge #277, of the 600 included in this railway, is the Bridge over the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi Thailand.
It was good to see that the history lesson is being taught to Thai children. We saw a couple of uniformed school groups on tour. Peter took the opportunity to 'ham it up' with this group.
It's obvious the Thais respect the magnitude of what happened here. There several monuments and a very well maintained POW graveyard in Kanchanaburi.
But that’s not the point really. Iit’s not whether I actually comprehend, but the attempt to see the lesson, to learn the history. I think that remembering our past – the mistakes made by humanity – is one key to helping to prevent repeating (bad) history.