The Garret Tree
Sunday, May 01, 2005
  Sonkrai Update and war crimes notes

Sonkrai Update

Spent a tough couple of weeks rewriting and rewriting and rewriting the chapter about the march upcountry from Ban Pong (just outside Bangkok) to the work camps in the jungles of the Kwai. The problem was trying to keep this part of the story as accurate as possible, based on the available records. You have seven thousand men loaded into 13 trains in 13 successive days in Singapore, travel at various speeds with various stops to Ban Pong and then they begin marching or slogging or dragging their way for many more days into deeper and deeper jungle. How do you keep track of all this? In a prisoner memoir, it doesn't matter, it's one man's experience. In an academic work it's the overall picture that matters.

In a narrative, I have to have the key characters in their right places, on the right days. The problem was that some records are highly accurate and specific (a couple of officers commanding some groups kept a detailed timeline) while others gave only summaries.

As I mentioned on my research blog, I used two bits of software to try to and keep it all on track, a big timeline in an Open Office spreadsheet, and a more detailed timeline in an thought processor/outliner called Brainstorm.

Link to Software and the difficult chapter

So took the weekend off as best I could. Mind was zonked after that one. Back to work to rewriting the cholera chapter on Monday.

War crimes notes

Some in the American media and legal community have woken up and realized that there was a 1929 Geneva Convention --the one that prisoners of war had to deal with the Second World War, before the 1949 Geneva Convention which is supposed to be in effect at the moment.

I found the link on the Berkeley War Crimes Center website, an excellent resource by the way, which links to a series of stories from the Wall Street Journal by reporter Jess Bravin. The story that is publicly linked is Will Old Rulings Play a Role in Terror Cases? pointing out correctly that there were lots of cases of prisoners being kept in inhuman conditions and denied the protection of the Geneva Convention in the war against Japan, including a great number of Americans.

The other stories in Bravin's series are

Military Commissions Then and Now

What War Captives Faced in Japanese Prison Camps

Note: Not sure how long these links will remain active.

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I write in a renovated garret in my house in a part of Toronto, Canada, called "The Pocket." The blog is named for a tree can be seen outside the window of my garret.

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Name: Robin Rowland
Location: Toronto, Canada

I'm a Toronto-based writer, photographer, web producer, television producer, journalist and teacher. I'm author of five books, the latest A River Kwai Story: The Sonkrai Tribunal. The Garret tree is my blog on the writing life including my progress on my next book (which will be announced here some time in the coming months) My second blog, the Wampo, Nieke and Sonkrai follows the slow progress of my freelanced model railway based on my research on the Burma Thailand Railway (which is why it isn't updated that often) The Creative Guide to Research, based on my book published in 2000 is basically an archive of news, information and hints for both the online and the shoe-leather" researcher. (Google has taken over everything but there are still good hints there)

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    A River Kwai Story
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