On This Day

The Day Myanmar Honored POWs Who Lost Their Lives Building the ‘Death Railway’

By Wei Yan Aung 18 December 2020

The Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery officially opened in Thanbyuzayat in Mon State on this day in 1946. The opening was attended by Myanmar’s independence architect General Aung San and the governor of colonial Burma, Sir Hubert Elvin Rance.

The cemetery was constructed for Allied prisoners of war who died in the year-long construction of the “death railway,” the 415-km link between Ban Pong near Bangkok and Thanbyuzayat. Construction of the railway, which was built by the Japanese to move troops and weapons during the Burmese campaign, cost the lives of more than 100,000 Asian civilians and Allied prisoners.

Both Buddhist and Christian religious rituals were held for the souls of the deceased during the opening ceremony of the war cemetery.

Speaking on the occasion, Gen. Aung San said: “As we meet the noble souls of the deceased today, we should not only pray for them, but also pray for all the global citizens to be freed from yoke and curtailment as soon as possible. At the same time, let’s pledge in all seriousness to root out any form of fascism from the earth that would perpetuate human-to-human oppression, exploitation and inhumanity.”

The Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery was created by the Army Graves Service, which transferred to it all bodies found along the northern section of the railway, between Moulmein (now Mawlamyine) and Nieke. There are now 3,149 Commonwealth and 621 Dutch graves from World War II in the cemetery.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko