Who worked the Burma-Thai rails?

In Roger Pulvers’ Nov. 10 article, “Prisoners of fate forget and forgive” [a book review of Richard Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North"], Pulvers claims that the Asians who labored on the Burma-Thailand railway were “prisoners of war.” This characterization is plain wrong.

The vast majority of the Asian laborers were noncombatants. They are commonly referred to as “coolies” but could perhaps most appropriately be termed “imperial subjects,” inherited by Japan and subsequently reclaimed by the West once the defeat of Japan allowed the resumption of Western imperialism.

paul de vries
kawaguchi, saitama

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.