Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Khun Yuam -- A Memorial to the Spirit of the Japanese

So why is there a Japanese memorial here? Good question ...

Most of you would be familiar with Hellfire Pass and the Thai-Burma Death Railway, but may not know that the Japanese were active in many other parts of Thailand in World War Two (for instance there's a Japanese military cemetary just south of Chiang Mai too).

But Khun Yuam was a major transit route for the Japanese soldiers to reach Burma. They 'hired' locals to build railways and roads in this area to assist their effort. The conditions were apparently appalling, as evidenced by video footage which is played sympathetically in this small but perfectly formed memorial.

Why the sympathetic treatment? Well, after the Japanese went storming up into Burma and got their bottoms kicked, they used the roads and railways to retreat (or 'advance to the rear' in their parlance). Which brought them back through Khun Yuam. And 8000 Japanese died in this area from wounds, disease, etc. Eight thousand, jing jing! That's a lot for a non-combat zone (Thailand was ostensibly neutral in the war, although they had a sweetheart arrangement with the Thai goverment.)

So a memorial was erected to their spirit and/or spirits.

The museum itself is well curated given its size and location. But if you love checking out uniforms, helmets, guns, old motorbikes, and other wartime memorabilia, it is a half day well spent.

The Japanese who died here might have disagreed.

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