The majority of the laborers were actually Asians who were ‘hired’ by the Japanese. Many initially came willingly from Burma. Malaya and Thailand. Others were ‘conscripted’ from Java, China and French Indo-China. The death toll amongst these slaves was horrendous. While 12-13000 of the 61,000 Allied POWs died during or after the work on the TBR, estimates of the Asian deaths run as high as 200,000. They accounted for over 85% of the TBR-related deaths according to the Thai-Burma Railway Centre publications.
Collectively, these were known as the romusha.
[Their story is explored in depth in Section 10c]
Many of these ‘hired’ laborers brought their families, hence the photos documenting women and children in their midst.