I taught English for a number of years in Bangkok, and one of my students was a Thai man who grew up in the province of Kanchanaburi, where The Bridge on the River Kwai was (and still is). During WWII this man was a boy, and the Japanese peacefully occupied Thailand. The area around his home had POW camps which housed the (mostly farang, that is western) prisoners who were charged with building and rebuilding the bridge across the river, which would allow the Japanese access to Allied-controlled Burma. When I asked him what people thought about having these camps in their midst, he said that many felt sorry for the POWs and would sneak them food and other necessities whenever they could.

Once a Japanese military leader came to view his Boy Scout troop, and stopped and spoke to him. Perhaps this military man singled out my student because he was bright and good-looking; he remained a smart and handsome man well into his 60s, which is when I met him.

Kanchanaburi has large graveyards filled with almost 10,000 white crosses to memorialize those who died in the Japanese POW camps.

In the last few decades, as WWII veterans age, some of them have tried to find a kind of peace and resolution to this most horrifying yet seminal period of their lives by visiting Kanchanaburi. A number of European vets have actually met with their Japanese former captors in Kanchanaburi, apparently in some cases a cathartic reunion for both.