Monday, August 19, 2019

Remembering heroic Thai resistance to Japan’s ‘Death Railway’

Feb 21. 2019
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Re: “See Thai WWII history for proper understanding of “brutish and cruel”, Have Your Say, yesterday.

John Alexander Kirkpatrick rightly takes Vint Chavala to task for a poor understanding of history, but he is also not on top of his subject. There is no way that Thailand collaborated with Japan in the appalling mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war and Asian labourers during the construction of the “Death Railway”. Japan had occupied Thailand, and the Japanese army was in sole charge of this project. After the war, several Japanese soldiers were executed or imprisoned for war crimes. By contrast, the British government honoured several Thai citizens for risking their lives to supply much-needed medical supplies and food to prisoners in the camps. The decision by Thailand’s military dictator to declare war on the Allied powers was an empty gesture – Thailand took no active part in the war – but it was greeted with dismay by many Thais and was one of the reasons for the creation of the Seri Thai resistance movement.

I do however agree with Kirkpatrick’s favourable view of Britain’s unique and lasting contribution to the modern world. It’s not possible in a short letter to list all the good and positive things that Britain has done, but I would just say that during a visit to Singapore last year I was pleased to note that mulligatawny soup and bread and butter pudding, culinary delights which fortified generations of empire builders, still featured on the menu at the Singapore Cricket Club. “Pax Britannica” lingers on in some weird and wonderful ways too.

Robin Grant

Bangkok 

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