The Weary Dunlop Park
… all the prisoners of war love him very much … So, when he died, I made up my mind to have Weary Dunlop Park in memory of him.
The Weary Dunlop Park is a remarkable tribute to the Australian POW surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel E.E. 'Weary' Dunlop.
Dunlop is revered in Australia as the iconic image of the self-sacrifice, courage and compassion manifested by Australian doctors in captivity, but what makes the park unusual is that it is located in Thailand and was created a Thai.
It is found at Home Phu Toey resort, on the Kwae Noi a short distance downstream from the former site of Konyu River camp and accessible from Highway 323 just south of the entrance to Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum.
The owner of the Home Phu Toey resort, a Thai businessman Mr Kanit Wanachote, met Dunlop in 1985 when he and his ex-POW companions Bill Haskell and Keith Flanagan were travelling up the Kwae Noi searching for the sites of the former Konyu River and Hintok River camps. Calling in at what they thought was a restaurant, they found Kanit and his wife living on a moored houseboat while they were building their home on land at Phu Toey.
Kanit's offer of hospitality and a beer started a life-long friendship with Dunlop, Haskell and Flanagan, each of whom returned to Home Phu Toey regularly until their deaths.
After Dunlop died in 1993 some of his ashes were taken to the railway. One part was interred in Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) near the plaque that Dunlop had unveiled some years earlier. Another part was floated down the Kwae Noi from the 'Green Beach' at Home Phu Toey Resort.
In a Buddhist ceremony organised by Kanit, Dunlop's ashes were blessed as those of an 'enlightened soul'. They were then launched onto the river on a candle-lit miniature boat at dusk. Ten other boats followed, five launched by Thais and five by Australians. The night finished with fireworks and Dunlop's name spelt out in letters of fire on the hillside.
The ceremony was repeated on the deaths of Flanagan and Haskell.
In the late 1990s Kanit developed a peace park which included the Weary Dunlop Museum. A huge wooden statue of Dunlop guards the entrance to a hall housing POW memorabilia and information about Dunlop's life and his friendship with Kanit.
The park also includes a replica of a POW hospital, various artefacts from prisoner camps and a gallery containing prints of the evocative drawings of British POW Jack Chalker.
Perched on rails on a ledge on the side of the hill above stands a wartime locomotive and wagon brought in at huge effort. The words 'The Death Railway' are spelled out in 'sleepers'.
Since it is close to Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting), Home Phu Toey now acts as a base for Anzac Day activities. Mr Kanit Wanachote caters for large crowds of visitors including embassy staff from Bangkok and the Quiet Lions tours. He even stages a Sound & Light Show, complete with fireworks, at a purpose-built miniature 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.
Each year a Buddhist ceremony is also held to pay homage to those who died in World War II and particularly the prisoners and workers who died during the construction of the Burma-Thailand railway.
In 2009 Mr Kanit Wanachote was award an Honorary Order of Australia medal in recognition of his 'service to Australia through his memorial peace park and museum erected to preserve the memory of the Burma-Thailand Railway Prisoners of War'.