JEATH War Museum, Kanchanaburi
Founded in 1977 by the Buddhist Temple Wat Chaichumpol, the JEATH War Museum was the first museum built in Kanchanaburi. Built on the grounds of the temple and managed by the monks who live there, the museum was developed to educate new tourists to the area on the experiences of those who worked on the Thai-Burma Railway and commemorate those who lost their lives along the way. Located on the river bank at the junction of the Kwae Noi and Mae Khlong rivers, close to the well known ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’, the museum’s name is an acronym of those countries involved in the Thai-Burma Railway – Japan, England, Australia, Thailand and Holland. At the entrance to the museum, each of these countries has their national flag on display.
The museum is divided into two sections. One building displays a collection of objects from the war, for the most part collected around the area of Kanchanaburi, including the Prisoner of War camps, the bridge building sites and the railway. Weapons, tools, uniforms, medals and other personal items, each inform the visitor of the soldiers’ day-to-day life, of both the Allied and Japanese troops. One of the most unique items is a 500-pound bomb that was dropped on the railway bridge as a deterrent to stop the Japanese from building. The bomb, however, never exploded and now sits in the courtyard of the museum. The other part of the museum consists of small bamboo huts – a replication of the rooms POWs were forced to live in at the prison sites. Inside the huts photographs, paintings and illustrations show the terrible living conditions the men were made to endure, the food they were fed and the diseases that swept through the camps. Basic in its presentation, the JEATH Museum enables visitors to immerse themselves, at some level, in the environment of which the POWs experienced, in turn uncovering the suffering and the camaraderie that occurred at prison camps during World War II.