The Thailand-Burma Railway Centre is a fascinating museum and research centre recounting the details of the Death Railway’s construction with a high level of accuracy and sensitivity.
According to the founders: “The principle on which this museum was designed and built was to provide a truthful account of the construction and use of the Thailand-Burma Railway and to honour those who suffered as a result.” They also “aimed to research the fate of every Allied POW who died as a result of being sent to work on the railway.” An attentive walk through the museum will provide a basic understanding of the Death Railway, making it easier to appreciate how thousands of POWs died before perusing some of their gravestones at the neighbouring Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
Dozens of well-written English info boards join models, maps and videos to touch on the railway from a number of different angles. Moving quotes from POWs are featured close to some of their actual journals, which are joined by cutlery, Bibles and other implements used by the prisoners. At the centre, a life-size bronze statue depicts two emaciated prisoners carrying a disease-stricken compatriot.
One of the most striking exhibits shows a number of rusty railroad spikes sticking out of wooden slabs, each one representing 500 deaths from all of the major groups involved in building the railway: Tamil, Malay, Burmese, British, Javanese, Australian, Dutch, Singaporean, American, Annamese, Japanese and Korean. Other displays explain how the railway fit into the broader context of the Second World War.
The gift shop features dozens of books relating to the railway—Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North is well worth a read. Also check out the exceptional map of the entire railway pinpointing more than original 100 burial grounds and other points of interest. Museum staff offers half- and full-day tours that are ideal if your priority is to learn about the war history.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 10th February, 2017.
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