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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.
This route was vulnerable to attack by Allied submarines, especially after the Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway in June 1942.
The movement of POWs northward from Changi prison in Singapore and other prison camps in Southeast Asia began in May 1942.
The number of Southeast Asian workers recruited or impressed to work on the Burma railway has been estimated to have been more than 180,000 Southeast Asian civilian labourers (rōmusha).
Its route was through Three Pagodas Pass on the border of Thailand and Burma.
69 miles (111 km) of the railway were in Burma and the remaining 189 miles (304 km) were in Thailand.
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Siam–Burma Railway, the Thai–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).