Field notes: Death Railway's 'forgotten' labourers

About 300,000 labourers or 'romusha', including Malayan Tamils, worked on the wartime railway and some never returned home. Now, a Malaysia-based group plans to honour them with a memorial.

NEW DELHI • The bodies were being dumped in the pit, one on top of the other. Mr Marimuthu Sabapathy, a worker who helped build the infamous Siam-Burma Railway during World War II for the Japanese, was among them. But he wasn't dead.

Presumed lifeless, Mr Sabapathy was thrown into what was a mass grave for labourers who toiled on the railway line. He could have wound up dead and untraced, but fate had something else in store for him. He was, fortunately, picked up and saved by other workers who were dumping the bodies after they saw his fingers move. The lucky survivor died in September last year at the age of 94 in Rawang, Malaysia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2019, with the headline 'Death Railway's 'forgotten' labourers'. Print Edition | Subscribe