The Death Railway Museum

The Death Railway Museum

Marking history

More on Mawlamyine

Thanbyuzayat was the terminus of the infamous Death Railway built using forced labour overseen by the Japanese army during World War II. A modest museum, newly opened in early 2016, commemorates this for the first time.

Travelfish says:
The Japanese train. Photo by: Mark Ord.
The Japanese train. Photo: Mark Ord

Up until recently all that you could see in Thanbyuzayat was a rusty old weed-choked train and a few metres of rail track at the side of the road. Unlike the Hellfire Pass Museum sponsored by the Australian government and the nearby cemetery cared for by the Commonwealth Graves Commission, this new two-storey museum was paid for by the Burmese government. While considerable effort clearly went into it, at the end of the day they simply do not have much to display.

The old Japanese train has been repainted in what purports to be original colours (it used to be British racing green) and a section of the track has been restored. Incidentally, legend has it that the first train to complete the journey on the harrowing line was a train load of “comfort women” for Japanese officers. Otherwise the museum exhibits consist of dummy guards and prisoners labouring in the garden and a collection of copies of period photos.

Probably rather finished than started here but… anyway. Photo by: Mark Ord.
Probably rather finished than started here but… anyway. Photo: Mark Ord

The highlight is a spectacular trompe l-oeil painted scene taking up the entire centre of the small museum. This shows an imaginary – rather Tolkien-esque – railway vista with very effective 3-D rocky cliffs and escarpments. You’re allowed to walk on it; go up to the second floor balcony to see the ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 300 words.)

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Reviewed by

Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.

Tours in Burma Myanmar



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