The centrally located Kanchanaburi War Cemetery contains the remains of 6,982 Allied POWs who died during the construction and maintenance of the Thai-Burma Railway from 1942 to ‘45.
After the war, the remains of thousands of Allied POWs were buried at more than 100 makeshift cemeteries scattered along the railway. Most were exhumed and transferred to official war cemeteries in three places: Kanchanaburi, Chung Kai and Thanbyuzayat in Burma. Kanchanaburi is the largest of the three and can be visited on the same day as Chung Kai.
Each grave marker is labeled with the name, country, religion and dates of birth and death of the soldier entombed below, information made possible by the record keeping of POWs who survived the ordeal. Most soldiers buried here died in their twenties and came from Commonwealth countries, while around 1,800 were Dutch (remains of Americans were repatriated). A marble memorial features the names of hundreds of soldiers who were cremated, proclaiming: “Their glory shall not be blotted out.”
With well-manicured gardens and lawns, the cemetery has a reverential atmosphere magnified by family members of the deceased and occasional uniformed veterans who stroll among the graves.
A large Chinese cemetery stretches directly south of Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and contains rows of tombs built above ground, often decorated with ceramic mosaics. Both are usually visited in conjunction with the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum, located across the street to the north.
By David Luekens.
Last updated on 10th February, 2017.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.