YANGON, 19 March 2015: Local company Tala Mon is planning to invest more than USD3 million over the next two years to renovate a historic Death Railway site in Mon State.
Irrawaddy, an online news service, reported that the Mon State government gave Tala Mon permission to restore and construct new tourist facilities at the World War II-era site in Thanbyuzayat Township. Construction will begin on a development on 20 March.
The project will include a museum, hotel, restaurants, souvenir shops, a shopping mall and playground facilities, the report said.
There is likely to be objections from associations representing PoWs if the project lacks a sense of history, or respect for the lives lost building the railway. Shopping malls and a playground plans will be the obvious targets for those who believe the sites should be memorials to honour PoWs and labourers who suffered at the hands of the Japanese imperial army.
The company owner, Min Banyar San, was quoted as saying the project will be finished by 2017.
“I’ve collected materials for the museum, some of which have been provided by the government, and I am encouraging people who have memorabilia from World War II to contribute.”
The Japanese Army ordered the construction of the infamous Death Railway in 1943 in order to connect Thanbyuzayat to Thailand’s Kachanaburi province.
Around 200,000 local civilian labourers and prisoners of war were forced to work on the 415-kilometre (258-mile) railway, and around 16,000 prisoners of war died during its construction.
The company owner added: “There will be old paintings, books, clothes and other related artefacts, some of which will come from materials stored by the Ministry of Rail Transport.”
“We will renovate the old rail line and we will maintain one steam engine,” he said.
Tala Mon was granted a 30-year lease for a 6-acre plot of land around the railway site by the Mon State government last December.
At present the only reminder of the railway is a sign post that announces the “Myanmar-Thailand-Japanese Death Railway line started here.” An old steam locomotive stands on a short section of track. A damaged statue of a soldier stands in tall grass.