Back in 1943, the building of the Burma Railway, aka the Death Railway, took the lives of about 90 000 civilian labourers (rōmusha) and more than 12 000 Allied POWs. The Allied POWs (British, Dutch, Indian, and Australian) are buried in the two war cemeteries in Kanchanaburi. The Americans were taken home. And the civilians, one would imagine, are buried locally.
There isn’t much about the Chinese Cemetery in the public domain. Some have it that it’s a Chinese-Thai War Cemetery. Others say it has nothing to do with the war at all. It sits next door to the Allied Cemetery and yet doesn’t feature on the tourist trail as such. One side is open to the street, no fence or wall to mark the border. It’s a stunning mix of numbered Chinese burial mounds and Thai chedi reliquaries. Looked at from above, it’s quite spectacular.
Wandering through it, I was struck by how different it is from the one next door. It seems a little all over the place, no orderliness to it at all, other than the numbered Chinese mounds that face the main street. Some of the columbaria are empty and it doesn’t seem as if they’re waiting for ashes, more that the ashes that were there have been removed. There are newer graves to the back – a different style – but without reading the inscriptions it was hard to say how new or old they might be.