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Thai services remember past sacrifices

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/04/2016 Ron Corben

Under a jungle canopy in the early light of day more than one thousand people attended the Anzac Day dawn service at the site of the infamous "Death Railway" in Western Thailand.

The memorial, 190 kilometres west of Bangkok, marks the place where 74 years ago more than 60,000 Allied prisoners of war, including 13,000 Australians plus 200,000 Asian labourers were forced to construct the 415km rail line from Thailand to Burma.

Some 2800 Australians lost their lives from a PoW death toll of 16,000, while 90,000 Asian labourers perished from disease, starvation and brutal conditions.

Veteran PoWs who worked on the line, Harold Martin,99 and Neil McPherson, 94, attended the ceremonies where by mid-morning summer time heat as temperatures soared to 40C.

McPherson later met Japan's Ambassador to Thailand in Kanchanaburi town.

An Australian Embassy spokesperson said 600 people attended the services, which included the ambassadors from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada, as well as Thai officials.

Australian Ambassador to Thailand, Paul Robilliard, in his address at the cemetery, marked the sacrifices made by past generations during the World Wars and conflicts.

"We owe the men and women of Australia and New Zealand who served their nations and fellow people," Robilliard said.

"We owe especially those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the lives we live.

"Lives, which for most of us are free from want, oppression, lives that we can enjoy without the threat of war and its horrendous carnage.

"Our presence in this cemetery reminds us that the lives of those from many nations were destroyed," he said, adding the toll paid by the many Asian labourers.

"As we look around at this cemetery as we stood in Hell Fire Pass we can have some sense of that experience. In that sense it can only reinforce to us the sacrifice that those who died for our freedom."

Officials said the crowds attending the services this year were fewer in number than in 2015 - the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings by Allied forces in World War I.

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