New River Kwai light-and-sound show celebrates Thai war hero

Breaking News November 15, 2017 12:27

By The Nation

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The newest riverside light-and-sound show in Kanchanaburi and latest in a series of big year-end tourism money-makers celebrates the life of local World War II hero Boonpong Sirivejjabhandu.

“Death Railway Hero: The Musical” depicts the touching sacrifice made by Kanchanaburi native Boonpong in saving hundreds of Allied prisoners of war and slave labourers. 

The show will be presented from November 23 to December 3 as part of the extended River Kwai Bridge Week Celebrations.

Popular actor Ruangsak “James” Loychusak will star as Boonpong and Candy Rakkaen as his wife Surat.

Kreingkarn Kanjanapokin, chief executive of event organiser Index Creative Village, said the musical is a collaboration with the Kanchanaburi Sub-district Administrative Organisation and Tourism Authority of Thailand.

“This will be a more spectacular action show, in a new format, and will more comprehensively emphasise the heroic life of Boonpong Sirivejjabhandu, on whom we conducted thorough research before beginning production,” he said.

“His courage and sympathy aroused by the state of the prisoners have been overlooked and are less known to the Thai public, even though his heroism was internationally recognised. England acknowledged it with the George Cross, that country’s second-highest award. In Australia a medical scholarship was named in his honour. 

“His story inspired me to bring it to the stage,” Kreingkarn said. “As a musical, it will captivate the audience with its beautiful melodies composed exclusively for the show, and they’ll be amazed by the exciting battle scene with simulated effects, set against the majestic backdrop of the River Kwai Bridge in an area where more than 60,000 foreign prisoners of war perished and a multitude of locals suffered the effects of the war. 

“I believe everyone will love the show and be proud of our hero.”

Kanchanaburi Deputy Governor Bavonsak Vanich said the province chose ICV because it’s a global event organiser whose years of broad experience in the industry are “highly prominent”.

“The company came up with a wonderful proposal to redesign and modernise the show to attract more tourists. Through a musical focusing on Boonpong’s heroic life, the show depicts the situation in World War II in the province, where thousands of foreign prisoners died during construction of the railway – one life lost for every rail sleeper laid on the track. 

“We hold an annual light-and-sound performance to pay tribute to those who perished and commemorate the history of the Death Railway,” Bavonsak said. “The musical is expected to help create a surge in the local economy and promote Boonpong’s heroism as a model of morality for the public and tourists.

“There will also be sales of quality products and food from government agencies and private organisations, singing and dancing contests, a youth pageant, a fun fair with exciting games and raffles, Thai country-music concerts and a procession of cars decorated with colourful flowers.”

Bavonsak said Kanchanburi attracted nearly three million visitors last year, generating more than Bt1.9 billion in revenues.

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