Sangkhla Buri, land of 3 cultures

Sangkhla Buri, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Sangkhla Buri, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Sangkhla Buri District in Thailand’s western province of Karnchanaburi, bordering Myanmar, has its own charm and plenty of picturesque scenery. It is also a land of 3 cultures – Thai, Mon and Karen – and has now become a must-see destination.

In 1984, the construction of Khao Laem Reservoir inundated the old Sangkhla Buri. The old temple can still be seen when the tide recedes around March and April.

The rebuilt district is located 340 km northwest of Bangkok. It is also home to a number of ethnic groups. The longest wooden bridge in Thailand at 850 metres, the “Mon Bridge”, takes visitors to the Mon Village.

Having migrated from Myanmar around 50 years ago, some 3,000 Mon have been granted Thai nationality but still keep their traditional way of life.

“What remains in the Mon Community is the way we dress, our religious culture and performances and also our cuisine, which you cannot see elsewhere, said Aranya Charoenhongsa, a Thai of Mon origin.

Karen people are also among those who settled in Sangkhla Buri. Karen have been misunderstood by many in several aspects, so officials have tried to spread good images of this ethnic minority so outsiders have a positive attitude toward them and don’t consider them as alienated inhabitants.

“There’s still prejudice toward Karen people. For instance, they’re blamed for using slash and burn practices to destroy forests, which causes wildfires. But in fact, the Karen do rotation farming and have their own firebreaks,” said Surapong Kongjantuek, director of Karen Studies and Development Centre.

During World War II, Sangkhla Buri and the Three Pagodas Pass was along the route of the Japanese Imperial Army’s infamous ‘Death Railway’, built by Allied Prisoners of War and Asian captives in forced labour.

Also a main route in Thai and Burmese battles during the Ayutthaya period, the Three Pagodas Pass is now a thriving border market, where Thai goods are shipped abroad through Ye City, the fishery hub of Myanmar.

A construction project to connect the railway in Burma to Thailand’s Three Pagodas Pass is being planned by Myanmar, while Thailand is mulling the possibility of developing the railway for further trade and transportation.

If the rail line connection materialises, Sangkhla Buri with its cultural offerings will likely become a major tourist attraction in the future. – (TNA)