Site Name: Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery & The Death Railway
Area: Thanbyuzayat, Mon State, Myanmar
Site Description:The town of Thanbyuzayat was once the western terminus of a railway line built by forced labour under the Japanese during the years of 1942-1943 in World War 2. Nicknamed the “Death Railway”, over 30,000 allied prisoners and 100,000 Thai and Burmese villagers were starved, worked and tortured to death as they constructed it. Whilst the railway has mostly been reclaimed by the jungle in Myanmar, there are two sites which can still be visited for those interested.
The first is Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery which is built and maintained by the commonwealth war graves council on land gifted by the Burmese. The cemetery contains thousands of marked graves of allied soldiers from Australia, Britain, The Netherlands, India and Nepal. There are also many graves for soldiers who could not be identified. The site is very well kept and stands as a great tribute to those who lost their lives.
The second site is an old graveyard of which only the gates still remain and beyond them is a crumbling sign denoting the location of the former railway. There is also a small segment of track which was saved with a freshly painted locomotive still sitting atop. There was once three statues depicting emaciated dying soldiers here, however these were smashed to pieces by vandals long ago. Their remains can still be seen strewn along the ground beside the track. Whilst this site is in a very bad state it is definitely worth a visit.
Travel Advice:Thanbyuzayat can be reached by car from Mawlamyine in about one hour. As it does not take a long time to visit these sites it is possible to include them in a day trip and head further south to places like Set-Se Beach or Kyaikami Pagoda. Any hotel or guest house could arrange this trip for you.
Be Aware:As these sites are war memorials please be respectful at all times. Do not climb on monuments and do not take distasteful photos. Remember that despite Burma being on the side of the Japanese during WW2, many thousands of their own people still died unnecessarily and they deserve equal respect. Whilst both sites are usually free of any people, feel free to ask any questions of those you come across. People are always happy to help!