THE Japanese initially contracted Boon Pong, a local merchant in Kanchanaburi, to supply the prison canteens along the ( Kwai No) river, while they took their obvious cut of the profits. So Boon Pong became
the grocer supplying the camps’’, using river barges to supply camps as far up the Kwai Noi as Tarkanoon, in Thailand.
He and a secret underground movement called V, centred in Bangkok, helped to supply money, medicine and food to many of the camps along the Thai- Burma railway under the noses of the Japanese. Boon Pong would take his 12- year- old daughter, Panee, on his trips up- river and she would sing Japanese songs to the guards while Boon Pong handed over supplies to the prisoners of war. He also cashed personal cheques for prisoners and paid for drugs with his own money.
He did this with relative ease, but at great personal danger. What is amazing is that Boon Pong had previously had no contact with Europeans prior to the outbreak of war. Boon Pong was a merchant in Kanchanaburi and had made contact with the Anglo- Siam Corporation, meeting a Corporal Johnson. Both were instructive in the initial setting up of the underground movement. Significant financial assistance came from members of the expat community in Bangkok, in particular from a man called Peter Heath, who was at the time interned in a civilian camp under the Thai army. The expat community and many Thais and Chinese merchants in Bangkok assisted with the simple donation of money.
Peter Heath, Ken Gairdner and Dick Hempson were the mainstays of the V organisation in Bangkok. It was a complete underground aid organisation, and without these people and Boon Pong as the public undercover face, many thousands of men would simply have perished from starvation and disease on the Line.
Clinging to life: On the Thailand Railway ( 1946) by Harold Abbott