Construction of the famed Death Railway linking Thailand to Burma will reportedly begin again after a peace deal was made between the Burmese government and Mon rebels in the country’s east.
Begun by the Japanese during World War Two, the railway earned its nickname from the more than 100,000 prisoner of war labourers estimated to have perished during its construction.
The project would have provided a direct route between Bangkok and Rangoon, but heavy bombing by the British in 1945 damaged sizeable parts of the line. Its most famous section, the crossing over the Kwai river in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi, became the backdrop to the novel The Bridge over the River Kwai by French writer Pierre Boulle.
Little work has been done on the railway since the late 1950s, but a businessman from the Mon state capital of Moulmein claims construction will soon resume.
Tun Naung was involved in talks between Burmese government officials and Mon business figures at a hotel in Moulmein last week, prior to the government agreeing a tentative ceasefire with the opposition New Mon State Party.
The planned railway route cuts through territory controlled by the NMSP and the Burmese government has been reluctant to push ahead with infrastructural projects there until stability is achieved.
Tun Naung quoted Railway Minister Aung Min, who is also spearheading peace talks with ethnic armies and who was present at the 24 February meeting, as saying that the section between Payathonsu, close to the Thai border, and Moulmein on the Gulf of Martaban coast would be completed.
The project would be for the “benefit of ethnic nationalities and the business industry”, he quoted Aung Min as saying.
The report appears to be corroborated my an article today in the Independent Mon News Agency that quotes Hla Maung Shwe, a businessman and vice president of the Organisation of Industrial Products who was also at the meeting.
The agency claims reconstruction of the project is closely linked to a mooted industrial zone in Thailand’s Three Pagodas Pass, which lies opposite Payathonsu and which acts as a strategically valuable trading route.