Many men in the railway workforce bore the brunt of pitiless or uncaring guards.Cruelty could take different forms, from extreme violence and torture to minor acts of physical punishment, humiliation and neglect.In early 1943, the Japanese advertised for workers in Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies, promising good wages, short contracts, and housing for families.When that failed to attract sufficient workers, they resorted to more coercive methods, rounding up workers and impressing them, especially in Malaya.In early 1942, Japanese forces invaded Burma and seized control of the colony from the United Kingdom.To supply their forces in Burma, the Japanese depended upon the sea, bringing supplies and troops to Burma around the Malay peninsula and through the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.Other nationalities and ethnic groups working on the railway were Tamils, Chinese, Karen, Javanese, and Singaporean Chinese."The conditions in the coolie camps down river are terrible," Basil says, "They are kept isolated from Japanese and British camps. Special British prisoner parties at Kinsaiyok bury about 20 coolies a day.
They had very little transportation to get stuff to and from the workers, they had almost no medication, they couldn’t get food let alone materials, they had no tools to work with except for basic things like spades and hammers, and they worked in extremely difficult conditions — in the jungle with its heat and humidity.The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Burma–Siam Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, was a 415-kilometre (258 mi) railway between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II.This railway completed the rail link between Bangkok, Thailand, and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon).These coolies have been brought from Malaya under false pretences – 'easy work, good pay, good houses! Now they find themselves dumped in these charnel houses, driven and brutally knocked about by the Jap and Korean guards, unable to buy extra food, bewildered, sick, frightened.Yet many of them have shown extraordinary kindness to sick British prisoners passing down the river, giving them sugar and helping them into the railway trucks at Tarsao." The first prisoners of war, 3,000 Australians, to go to Burma left Changi prison at Singapore on and journeyed by sea to near Thanbyuzayat, the northern terminus of the railway.