OC Book Release

Clare Hammond (W06) has released her book On the Shadow Tracks: A Journey through Occupied Myanmar. From forgotten routes to contemporary conflicts, Clare's exploration sheds light on Myanmar's past and present.

In 2016, while working as a journalist in Yangon, I discovered an obscure map that showed a web of new railways spanning the length and breadth of Myanmar - railways not shown on any other publicly available maps at the time.

It inspired me to pack a small bag and set out on a journey to uncover the railways’ origins, purpose, and most of all, the silence that surrounded them. I would spend the next three months travelling on these mysterious railways, and the next five years piecing their story together.

My journey would take me from Myanmar's tropical south to the embattled mountain towns that border India and China. In dilapidated carriages, along tracks in disrepair, through contested ethnic states and former sites of forced labour, visiting temples, tea shops and festivals, I encountered a colourful and contradictory Myanmar through the stories of its people.

My book about this journey – which would transform my understanding both of Myanmar’s modern history and of Britain’s colonial past – will be published on June 6. On the Shadow Tracks: A Journey through Occupied Myanmar is a travelogue about my encounters with the many brave and inspiring people who live along the tracks. But it’s also an investigation into systemic abuses carried out for decades against Myanmar’s people.

In February 2021, the country’s military staged another coup, seizing power from Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. Since then, many of the places I visited have been consumed by conflict, as Myanmar’s railways have once again become a battleground - just as they have been so many times in its history. My book helps to explain what’s happening there and why, aiming to spark a long-overdue conversation about the 120-year British occupation of Burma and its legacies today.

Clare Hammond (W06)

On the Shadow Tracks: A Journey through Occupied Myanmar will be published by Penguin Press on June 6.

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