Moe Aye spent six years in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison. He is now a news producer at the Democratic Voice of Burma.
I spent six years in Insein prison, from 1990 to 1996. They arrested me for my role in the National League for Democracy’s information department in Botahtaung township, Rangoon, although I was not an NLD member. I was part of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), and had written several satirical articles about the regime and young students distributed them among the people. Because of this, they were angry, and during interrogation they tortured my hands.
The number of people in my cell in Insein prison varied – sometimes it was just me, other times there were seven inmates. It changes often in Burmese prisons.
We all got along in the cell, and used different ways to communicate between cell blocks. We were allowed to have 15 minutes per day to shower and clean the cell, but we took only five minutes – the rest of the time we used to study and talk.
We created our own signals which we distributed among the cells, and then we would tap the signals on the cell walls with a small stone. Using methods such as these we began to learn English and discuss politics. There were some prison warders who sympathised with us, and they helped us to get some pieces of magazines, books and so on into the prison. Some warders who were caught with them were also arrested and sentenced to at least three years.
There were other prison warders who needed money and they smuggled books into prison when we paid them. Some of them were also caught with books and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Yet, we were able to learn English and discuss politics because of them.