UBONRATCHATHANI, THAILAND. COMMEMORATION OF CITY'S HUMANITY TO ALLIED PRISONERS OF WORLD WAR TWO, ON ARMISTICE-REMEMBRANCE
VETERANS’ DAY at 1100hrs, 11-11-2007.
In 1945, some people of Ubonratchathani (Ubon) risked their lives to help exhausted & sick Allied prisoners of war.
After the war, ex-prisoners paid to build the Monument of Merit, to thank Ubon people for their humanity & kindness.
The Japanese army used Allied & Asian prisoners to build the terrible Death Railway from Thailand to Burma (‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ movie). The food was so bad, & the work was so hard, many died.
Most the dead was Asian, about 90,000, but nobody knows exactly. Whole Tamil-Indian families came from Malaysia. Women & children worked & died, too. They also came from China, & Myanmar.
Of 60,000 Western prisoners, around 16,000 died – from Britain 6,318, from Australia 2,815, from Holland 2,490, & from the USA 4,377. Many others died from illness later.
The deaths were not accidents. As the railroad needed to be built fast, large teams of labourers worked without enough food or medical care. They worked until they dropped. New slaves replaced the dead.
The Japanese army brought the last Allied prisoners in Thailand to Ubon. The guards threatened the local Ubon people, but Thais bravely tried to help when they could. Survivors told about ‘Little Mother Ubon’. She & her daughter came repeatedly to give fruit to starving men. This showed great bravery & compassion, since the prisoners were strangers.
A Thai officer fighting with the Allies marched into Ubon in 1945 & finally freed the prisoners.
Local 'farangs' come to the Monument of Merit on 11 November, the Day of Remembrance.