The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway or the Thailand–Burma Railway was a 250 mile railway between Thailand and Myanmar (then Burma), built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to support its forces during World War II. The reason it is now called Death Railway is because forced labour and prisoners of war (POWs) were used in its construction. More than 180,000 Southeast Asian civilian laborers and 60,000 Alliedprisoners of war worked on the railway. The death toll was immense, estimates are little more than guesses, but approximately 90,000 civilian laborers died and over 16,000 Allied POWs died during the construction, including British, Australians, Dutch, and American soldiers.
Today sections of the railway remain in remembrance of those fallen and some are still in operation. Train rides give some perspective on the harsh conditions and landscape these men had to work in. It also allows for some beautiful views of the river and countryside.
The town of Kanchanaburi has one of the most famous landmarks of the Death Railway, the Bridge over the River Kwai (pronounced like 'square' or 'where').
Allied Forces bombed the iron bridge in 1944. Three sections of Bridge were destroyed. The present bridge has two of its central spans rebuilt. The Bridge, together with the Death Railway, is now regarded as the significant symbol of peace, portraying that war is the great illusion that benefits no one.
Another important sight to visit is the nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, around 7,000 POWs, who sacrificed their lives in the railway construction, are buried. Another 2,000 are laid to rest at the Chungkai Cemetery. Across the street is also the Death Railway Museum, with stories and artifacts of the POWs and forced laborers.