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Romusha (労務者 Rōmusha?, "laborer") were forced laborers during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in World War II. The U.S. Library of Congress estimates that in Java, between four to 10 million romusha were forced to work by the Japanese military.[1] About 270,000 of these Javanese laborers were sent to other Japanese-held areas in South East Asia. However, only 52,000 were repatriated to Java.

The Japanese military made very extensive use of such forced labor during the construction of the Burma-Thailand Railway during 1942–43 and the Pakan Baroe Railway on Sumatra in 1943–45.[2] The death rate among romusha, from atrocities, starvation diet, and disease far outstripped the death rate among Allied prisoners of war. About half the forced laborers engaged on the railroad construction died.


  1. ^ Library of Congress, 1992, "Indonesia: World War II and the Struggle For Independence, 1942-50; The Japanese Occupation, 1942-45" Access date: February 9, 2007.
  2. ^ Hovinga, Henk (2010). The Sumatra Railroad: Final Destination Pakan Baroe 1943–45. Leiden: KITLV Press. ISBN 9789067183284. 

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