Developer to Spend $3m on Death Railway Tourist Precinct

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 17 March 2015

RANGOON — Local company Tala Mon is planning to invest more than US$3 million over the next two years to renovate the historic Death Railway site in Mon State.

After the Mon State government gave Tala Mon permission to restore and construct new tourist facilities at the World War II-era site in Thanbyuzayat Township, construction will begin on a development on Mar. 20, which will include a museum, hotel, restaurants, souvenir shops, a shopping mall and playground facilities.

“I expected that all project will be finished during 2017,” said Min Banyar San, the owner of Tala Mon Company Ltd. “Recently, I’ve been collecting materials for the museum, some of which have been provided by the government, and I am encouraging people who have memorabilia from World War II to contribute.”

The Japanese Army ordered the construction of the infamous Death Railway in 1943 in order to connect Thanbyuzayat to Thailand’s Kachanaburi province.

Around 200,000 local civilian laborers and prisoners of war were forced to work on the 415-kilometer (258-mile) railway, and around 16,000 prisoners of war died during its construction.

“There will be old paintings, books, clothes and other related artefacts, some of which will come from materials stored by the Ministry of Rail Transport,” Min Banyar San said. “We will renovate the old rail line and we will maintain the old steam engine.”

Tala Mon was granted a 30-year lease for a 6-acre plot around the railway site by the Mon State government last December.

Remnants of the railway have been a popular tourist site for international visitors in Thailand, something that the Mon State government is aiming to replicate on the Burmese side of the border.

Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, the chairman of Myanmar Tourism Marketing, said he believed the site would succeed as long as it was successfully tailored for the tourist market.

“I am going to Kanchanapuri this month,” he said. “That destination has been doing well for the last two or three decades, and the new site in Thanbyuzayat can be as good as that one if it is developed and marketed well. However, it will take some time, effort and capital to position that site in the market, and it also need to be sustainably operated.”

Hnin Pwint Phyu, managing director of the Nanmyint Mahar travel agency, said that the site is likely to be popular with Thai tourists, who were frequent visitors to Mon State.

“For Thai visitors, this site would be a high priority tourist spot,” she said. “With easy access to the area, it would be very positive for the region.”