A Brief Glimpse Into The History Of Hellfire Pass In Kanchanaburi

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Kanchanaburi is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand with its waterfalls and national parks. For most tourists, the main reason for their visit is ช่องเขาขาดกาญจนบุรี that was built by prisoners of war and men and women labourers who were forced to suffer harsh conditions that resemble hell. A museum was built as a memorial to those who have suffered and died during the construction of the railway.

Former Prisoner of War J.G. Tom Morris can be credited for the preservation of the Hellfire Pass. After touring the area, he convinced the Australian government to preserve certain portions of the Thai-Burma Death Railway as historical site. As a result of his efforts, Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum was built.

In 1984, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) was commissioned to make a survey and choose a suitable site for the museum. After most of the ground work was completed, the reports were submitted to the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce in 1985. The development of the museum and the preservation of Hellfire Pass is a joint effort of the Thailand and Australian governments. As part of the experience, a visitor can pass through the cutting itself and along a section of the former railway track bed.

The Hellfire Pass along Tenasserim Hills was considered as the most difficult portion of the line to build. When it was built, there were no modern construction tools. That portion was the largest rock cutting section of the railway. It was easier to build a tunnel instead of cutting but it can only be constructed at two ends at any one time whereas cutting could be done at all points simultaneously. Australians, Dutch, British and other prisoners of war had to work for 18 hours a day in order to build the cutting.

Since the railway was not build for lasting permanence, the line is now only in service from Bangkok to Nan Tok Sai Yok Noi. If you are planning to visit ช่องเขาขาดกาญจนบุรี, you can take the bus from Non Tok Sai Yok Noi to Kanchanburi then take another bus to the museum.