Mass Grave Found Near Site of WWII ‘Bridge on River Kwai’

From Times Wire Services

A mass grave has been discovered near the site where tens of thousands of Asian slave workers and Allied prisoners died building a railroad for the Japanese during World War II.

The remains of up to several hundred people have been unearthed since Tuesday, when the excavation began. It is being carried out by the Pothipawana Songkroh Foundation, a Buddhist group that wants to provide proper burials.

Several dozen workers continued digging Sunday in a sugar cane field in Kanchanaburi province, about 70 miles west of Bangkok.


The mass grave is about three miles from a bridge made famous in the 1957 Hollywood movie, “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” which celebrated the heroism of the wartime captives.

The Japanese used Allied prisoners of war and laborers from Malaysia, India and Singapore beginning in June of 1942 to complete the strategic railway bridge linking Thailand and Burma, now known as Myanmar.

More than 300,000 prisoners and slave laborers worked on the 268-mile rail line. An estimated 90,000 died from disease, malnutrition and ill treatment.

A foundation official, Santi Assawaseeyotin, said it appears that the bones had been “dumped into the ground, because they were found in some disorder.”

“We believe they were bones of Asian people, as the skulls found were not big,” Assawaseeyotin said. “There also were children’s bones.”

He said the remains are being taken to the foundation’s office in Bangkok, where they will be cleaned, blessed and cremated.

Recovered along with the bones were metal plates and bowls, several stamped “Made in Japan” or “Made in Hong Kong.” The Bangkok Post said some had the year 1939 imprinted on them.

The discovery of the remains comes just before the annual 11-day River Kwai Bridge Festival, a major tourist attraction of special shows and exhibitions in the area, scheduled to begin Friday.