Words From the Prisoners

This is the sixth of seven posts from Dina Fine Maron and M. Francesca Monn, writing from Mae Sot, Thailand, a town on the border with Burma. Maron and Monn are PHR interns who are collecting information about medical conditions and human rights abuses inside Burma’s prisons. This research is being completed with the help of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B), a Thailand-based advocacy group consisting of former Burmese political prisoners.

The following is a compilation of some of the quotes gathered during PHR’s field research or collected in the archives kept by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, Burma (AAPP). The identities of the speakers are excluded to protect their privacy. The former political prisoners that were interviewed stressed that the health conditions within the prisons remain largely unchanged.

At Tharawaddy, we were only allowed to shower using 7 cups of water. This is hardly enough. It was an insult to us because next door to the prison is a pig farm, and the pigs were washed using lots of water. We complained about this mistreatment and asked why the pigs were given better treatment then us. They replied that if a 5(j) political prisoner were to die, they only needed to make one report; if a pig were to die, they would need to make up to five reports. The guards made sure we knew that we were less important than the pigs, that our lives were valued less. After we made our complaint, they stopped allowing us to shower altogether and stopped giving us lighting.” –A male former political prisoner, first arrested in 1990, then again in 1996, released in 2002.

“The major health problem is inadequate healthcare and malnutrition. Some veggies grown in prison, I’m embarrassed to say, were only watered with urine.” – A female former political prisoner, arrested 1998 and released in 2002.

“I was kept for 7 days and 6 nights without talking to my family or friends or anyone; I had no sleep that entire time. Every fifteen minutes someone would come to me and ask me a few questions. Nothing important, but they would ask me these questions so that I was not allowed to sleep. For my first three days I didn't even have food or water. Then I was given prison food at the end of my third day, for the last two days they had mixed sand into my food so that it was inedible.” – A female former political prisoner, imprisoned 1991. Release date unknown.

“For ten days I was kept undressed, I was very ashamed. They continued to beat and kick me all the while I was naked. I was beaten at least four times in one day with canes. Then, they gave me too much to drink; I was very emotional and thirsty so I kept drinking the water. Then, they would not allow me to urinate. On December 22nd, I lost consciousness. An MI [military intelligence] doctor then injected me with B12 vitamin. When I regained consciousness, they gave me a 12-point confession to sign. I accepted three points because they only implicated me and no one else. This satisfied them and I was finally allowed to wear my clothes, and given some Quaker oats to eat…"A former male political prisoner arrested in 1996. Release date unknown.

“I want to work not just for my son, but for future generations.” A former male political prisoner who fled Burma, leaving his wife and son behind four years ago. He cannot contact them, he said, out of concern of endangering them. Although imprisoned 1989-1995, he has been actively involved in providing assistance to political prisoners since his release.

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