The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway or the the Thailand–Burma Railway is a 415 kilometres (258 mi) railway between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar), built by the Empire of Japan during World War II, to support its forces in the Burma campaign. One of the prime reasons for the construction of the railway by the Japanese was to overcome the total reliance on sea transport as the only means of supplying Burma once the country was under their control by June 1942. Shipping on the long sea voyage around Singapore was prone to submarine attack once the allies were fully operational out of India.
Forced labour was used for the construction with the labourers comprising of mostly prisoners of war (POWs) and Asians from sorrounding countries. It is estimated that more than 16,000 prisoners died during the construction of the railway roughly about 38 prisoners for every km of railway built. Given the lack of adequate food and medical services, most labourers died out of sickness, malnutrition and exhaustion.
The most famous portion of the railway is Bridge 277, ‘the bridge over the River Kwai‘, which was built over a stretch of river which was then known as part of the Mae Klong.
The Bridge on the River Kwai is an epic story about British prisoners of war during World War II who are ordered to build a bridge to accommodate the Burma-Siam railway. Their instinct is to sabotage the bridge but, under the leadership of Colonel Nicholson, they are persuaded that the bridge should be constructed as a symbol of British morale, spirit and dignity in adverse circumstances. At first, the prisoners admire Nicholson when he bravely endures torture rather than compromise his principles for the benefit of the Japanese commandant Saito.