living in the ‘Land of Smiles’

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai – The Youngest Operative: A Tale of Initiative Behind Enemy Lines During WW II

Via: Central Intelligence Agency

Pridi Panomyong, the leader of World War II’s anti-Japanese Free Thai Movement once said that the Free Thai were not only those formally inducted into the movement, but all Thai who helped in the effort against the Japanese occupiers.

This is the story of one such Free Thai, perhaps the youngest of them all. Orachun Tanaphong was a 12-year old in 1944 when he became a courier and carried medicines and messages to Allied POWs held in a temple compound in Northern Thailand. This story of his adventures is based on his recollections of those events.

By mid-1943, Allied aircraft bombed targets in Thailand with regularity, striking at concentrations of Japanese troops. The city of Chiang Mai became a primary target. It was close to Burma, and the city’s railroad station was the northern terminus of Thailand’s railroad system that extended out from Bangkok and its port. The railroad became the primary means for the Japanese to move troops, weapons and supplies around Thailand, and most importantly, north to Chiang Mai to support the Japanese Army’s campaign in Burma.

On 21 December 1943, Allied bombers hit Chiang Mai’s railway station in a massive raid. The station and the neighborhoods around it were destroyed. More than 300 Thai civilians were killed. Among the dead and injured were Orachun’s relatives. The city’s hospitals were crowded with the injured, and Buddhist temples were used to treat the overflow. More bombings followed, and Orachun’s father decided to move the family into the countryside, where they could live in relative safety until the situation improved.


When some of the POWs who had regularly visited the shop dropped out of sight, Orachun’s father learned that they were sick and were left behind in the camp. Malaria was rife in Chiang Mai at that time. It could be controlled with quinine, but the POWS were getting nothing to keep them healthy. Orachun’s father decided to try to get medicine, some fruit, and even some cigarettes into the camp. It would have to be done secretly. The obvious choice of a courier was the 12-year-old Orachun.


Read the rest of this amazing story, HERE:



A year after the war, Orachun’s family was awarded a plaque by the British government. (In the picture to the right, the young Orachun is standing over his father’s left shoulder, with his brother next to him.)

Orachun finished his studies in Bangkok and won a scholarship to study in Madrid. He returned to Thailand, joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and went on to a distinguished career as a diplomat.

He served as Thailand’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Portugal, Mexico, and Central America. Today he is an associate judge at the Central Intellectual Property and International Trade Court in Bangkok.



July 28, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,


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