The Birth of Kanchanaburi A relatively modern province, the origins of Kanchanaburi can be traced back to the reign of King Rama I, who established the area as a defence against the invading Burmese in the late 18th century. The Thais and Burmese have a long history of cross-border troubles and Three Pagodas Pass in Sangkhlaburi district is still used today as a smuggling route! Over the next century, Thailand as a nation became the economic power of S.E.Asia, due in large part to the creation of small towns such as Kanchanaburi, complimenting the established Kingdoms of Ayutthaya, Sukothai and of course Bangkok.
The Thai-Burma "Death Railway" Whilst Asia remained largely unaffected during World War I, the rise of the Japanese empire during the 1940's plunged Thailand into a period of history for which Kanchanaburi was to play the central role. Having effectively occupied the Malay Peninsula, the Japanese Imperial Army started construction of the infamous Thai-Burma "Death Railway", which was needed to help carry supplies to Japanese soldiers in Burma. The project was started in Ban Pong in neighbouring Ratchaburi Province, branching off from the existing railway tracks and heading through Kanchanaburi into Burma via Three Pagodas Pass. However, the major stumbling block was to be how to cross over the River Kwai, hence the decision to create the now famous bridge. Over 100,000 POW's would ultimately lose their lives building the railway, forced to work under horrific conditions with many of them buried where they fell!