Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Food from the Jail

Note: I wake up thinking what do they feed in Insein jail in Burma. Here is one of many that I found! They feed red rice, bean and vegetable.......said almost rotten!!

Joint Report
Women Political Prisoners in Burma
Appendix 15

Thi Thi Aung was arrested and imprisoned for contact with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi following a 1996 student demonstration. She served six years and eight months of her seven year sentence, refusing to sign section 401(1) three times.

I was arrested in 1996, after leaving Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s home. I had gone there to inform her about the demonstration that had just taken place on December 2. I was arrested on December 3. They accused me of making a speech at the demonstration, even though I didn’t.After my arrest, I was taken to MI 12 Interrogation Centre. I was veiled from the time of my arrest and my thumbs were handcuffed together.I was put in a darkened room and from then I couldn’t tell if it was day or night. I estimated I was there for five days and four nights.

I wasn't offered food or drink for many hours. The room smelled terrible. It had only a very small stool in it. This was a torture chair, very high and about 10 inches big. It had no back so you couldn’t lean back.I was thrown into the room, and before the interrogation MI personnel slammed the door several times, very hard and in a very threatening manner.

Then a group of MI personnel came into the room and veiled me again before they started questioning me. Then they asked me about my actions again and again. They asked me if my actions were by order of NLD Central Executive Committee members or not. When I refused to answer they hit me with a book that was about three inches thick, many times. They couldn't get the answer they wanted so they hit me again and again, and accused me of organising people in the township against the regime. All this time I wasn't free of the thumb cuffs so I couldn't re-adjust my sarong.

They left, and later I was offered some food and water. I was offered this only three times during the whole interrogation that was four days and the first two times I was offered food that was rotten. I only had real food one time. I was only offered limited water, which wasn’t enough for me. I was thirsty all the time.

Then I was taken to Insein prison - before they sent me there I was veiled again and turned around many times so as not to know the way.

When I was in Insein I was put into a cell and prison authorities gave food to me in a very rude manner, without opening the cell door, like throwing the bowl at me. A lot of food was spilled and wasted. I was only allowed outside the cell for 15 minutes to take a bath.

I was only allowed to have five cups of water for my bath.There were two of us in the cell. We only had one mat and one blanket for two people, so we had to sleep on the concrete floor. Before the trial I had to live like this for a month. When I was arrested I had no extra clothes with me so when I washed my clothes I had to wear the blanket.

The woman I shared a cellblock with was also arrested under Article 5j, but she was just a sightseer, not an activist or participant in the demonstration. She was imprisoned as an example to the public of what happens to people who support Daw Aung San Suu Kyi- military intelligence personnel told me that.

I was put on trial after a month in Insein. I had to spend one year in the cell compound only being allowed out for thirty minutes a day for both walking and cleaning. My family was not allowed to visit until one month after the trial. Prison authorities ordered all of the political prisoners to follow the 18 prison principles and ordered us to repeat the principles to them. When we refused to do this the prison authorities took careful notes of our names and prison numbers. Five of us were transferred to Tharyarwaddy prison on November 15, 1997, and we thought it was because we had refused to repeat the principles.

My life at Tharyarwaddy was worse than it was at Insein until ICRC started to visit Tharyarwaddy prison at the end of 1999. After ICRC started to visit it got a little bit more comfortable. When I first got to Tharyarwaddy prison the food was so bad and hard like a stone, almost rotten. We had rice and bean soup for lunch and boiled vegetables for dinner. Those soups were like water. I don't remember the exact date, but there was one day that the food was in very bad condition, brownish red rice and hard like wood so we couldn't eat it. So we complained, step by step, to the prison authorities, first to the warden, then to the warden in charge, then to the officer in charge, then to his superior, four steps, but they didn't care. We requested peacefully and explained that we were transferred from Insein and our families could not visit us very often and that the food they had given us was not proper for our health. But the prison authorities did not care.

Most of the female political prisoners started to refuse to eat the food from the prison and we only had a few snacks supplied from our families. That lasted for three days. Prison authorities ignored us. After that we went on hunger strike, although we did not declare this to the authorities. We ate nothing. Two days later my family came and visited me. They were allowed this visit by the authorities. I informed my family of the situation and asked my family to inform Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. To do this I had to pay the prison reporter not to take notes during my families visit that day, so that I could inform my family secretly.

The hunger strike lasted one week. When it got to six days there was some news of it broadcast by the media because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi informed them. Some MI from Rangoon arrived and took me out of my cell. The female political prisoners who had not been eating anything were so weak. We couldn't move or talk and some suffered from diarrhoea, but even then the prison authorities didn't change the food. They told me not to say anything about our conditions to the MI. I said nothing to the prison authorities and I went to meet the MI.

MI asked me why we were on a hunger strike and I explained that the regime always declares to the international community that they put political prisoners under very good conditions when we actually live under very bad conditions. Food and medicine are substandard and our health suffers. MI told me that I had to live under these conditions because this prison is a remote prison, but finally MI met with the prison authorities and they set a date to change the food. The food changed after that date. The prison officer who allowed my family to visit me when all this started was then transferred to another prison.I believe the transfer was a direct result of allowing me a family visit where he didn’t take notes. In fact MI investigated the whole event and that officer was transferred. Thanks to us all political prisoners in Tharyarwaddy had good rice. Food conditions changed from that point for all prisoners there.

The hunger strike happened in early January 1998, soon after I was transferred. We were put in a cell compound in Tharyarwaddy that was not secure, so we were seen during bathing. That was the case until the ICRC started to visit. We really struggled in prison. The prison doctor was so brutal towards political prisoners. He didn’t take care of our health. Because of the bad conditions I now suffer from kidney ailments.

When political prisoners suffered from diseases he didn't treat us properly.

On National Day we sang political songs and were punished for twelve days. They cancelled our sentence reduction to which we were legally entitled. I had to stay in prison 30 more days than my casemate because I made this protest.I never signed section 401(1). I was offered to sign it three times. The first time was when I had served 5 yrs and 8 months. I refused. Those who did sign were treated with care. When they were released they were taken directly home to their families. When I was released I was shoved on a bus, carelessly. That's all.

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