Unburdening of U Pyinnyathami’s feeling (Monk’s experience in Saffron Movement)


Unburdening of U Pyinnyathami’s feeling

Interview by Ashin Zawana (posted 2010)

(Personal experience of a monk in Saffon Movement 2007 in Burma)


U Pyinnyathami who’s been residing now at Shwe Wa Yaung monastery in New Delhi, India is one of the prisoners who could manage to escape from the junta’s hell prison. Here is his burdened memory out of several interviews of his. He escaped from the terrible Linton hard labor work camp of prisoners while he had been hard-labored and tortured for nearly three and a half months. He (Yangon monastery, Pyigyidagun, Mandalay) got to the capital city of Aizawl of Mizoram the 18th of Oct 2007.

He took a leading role in the monk-led Saffron uprising and was arrested in Monywa and sentenced to three-year imprisonment. He had been imprisoned in Monywa prison for 7 months and sent to the hard-labor work camp of prisoners in Titein township Chin state via Kalay prison. He spoke to his participation and being arrested.

As for me, I worked with the presiding monk U Awebatha who led ABMA in the Shwe Wa Yaung uprising. After the uprising, as monks from ABMA were under the warrants of the junta, leading monks including me had to abscond. While we were hiding, our monastery had been raided by military security unit, USDA and the police three times. Fortunately I was out of the place. As I had heard about the raid, I fled to Monywa. It was the 18th of Oct, while I was using internet at Soft Link internet café, it seemed that the owner informed the police for I was arrested as I went out of the shop.

Then he added about his experience at the interrogation unit. As my answers were not what they wanted I was kicked my chest by military security unit officer Ko Ko Aung and U San Win wearing military boots. They threw military boots to my face as I was handcuffed behind my back.

Whenever I was asked a question they slapped my cheek and temple and hit me with their fists. I sometimes got unconscious. Once I was hit from behind and fell flat on the table. They tried to break my fingers. Sometimes my ribs were pulled up and shin bones were pressed with wooden rollers. I was not able to walk until I was sentenced and put into the prison. At last I couldn’t bare and I myself bumped my head against the table to get unconscious. Police officer U Aung Win standing beside me hugged and told me “Don’t do like this monk we have to investigate you by the instruction of our superiors.” And later they used less severe methods. But from the 18th to the 24th of Oct, I was investigated day and night without letting me drink a little water. Whenever their bosses came, they sent for me and investigated me.

Later they were ordered to investigate me until I confessed. They threatened me to light candles on my body. I was asked if we had had any contact with 88 generation students and NLD and asked some names. I answered I had no contact with them and I knew no one they asked. They told me that they already had the information and asked if I was from ABSDF or CPB.

Unfortunately my library card from American Center was found in my wallet and asked if I attended political training at the center and what we had been taught. And I was threatened to be more severely tortured if I refused to tell the truth. They added that I had been in their cupped hand and they had so many execution methods that could not be found any wound or injury on the victim’s body, they wouldn’t care being dismissed. I was charged with many sections of Act such as causing to lose esteem for the state, forming illegal organizations, writing derogatory comments on the government and having illegal currency. Finally, as they wanted international community to know they had no political prisoners, I was sentenced to three-year imprisonment for having foreign currency and then sent to Monywa prison.

He continued talking about his experience in prison as follows. When I was in Monywa prison, informers were assigned to watch me. When I tried to talk to some one, they eavesdropped on our conversation. And then I was sent for to come to the office and asked what I had told him and warned me not to do the wrong things or I’d be derobed.

When I was in Monywa prison, U San Win, an officer of military security unit, two SB officials and U Zawtika, the revered monk of Monywa came and asked me to leave Buddhist Order. I had been asked to derobe at least three or four times. “As your monk registration card’s been confiscated, even when you’re released from prison, you can’t be a monk. We’ll let you re-enter the Buddhist Order if you agree to be derobed now.” said U Zawtika. I was often sent for and asked to be derobed by the deputy superintendent. I was often questioned about vinayas, ABMA and the persons who had participated in saffron uprising. Later I came to know that the deputy superintendent was one of the stooges of U San Win.

He also told that how he had been tortured in the prison. He said” after U Gambiya’s arrest, I was investigated whereabouts of the senior monks of ABMA, U Awebartha and which monks who had participated in Saffron uprising I did know. Although I answered I didn’t know and I hadn’t participated, they didn’t accept.” When he was taken to the hard-labor camp of prisoners, he was shackled and forced to hard labor. He had to shoulder heavy logs. As it was in Chin state, he had to carry heavy logs from the deep ravine up to the hill top. He had to work even on Sundays. No day of rest. When he was not able to catch up with the prisoner in front, he was kicked or hit at the back by the guards. The prisoner who fell over for his being unable to carry would be kicked at his chest and tortured.

Concerning food and health care, he told that they were fed by quota and the food was notorious prison rice with small stones, grains of paddy and sometimes feces of mice. They hadn’t been let to eat such bad rice. As the prisoners were forced to hard labor and listless, within two weeks or so they got pale and hollow-eyed. Some got seriously ill. Some had had sore because of laceration of the shackles. Some got boils. At Wazi hard labor camp of prisoners, a prisoner had to find 2000 Kyats for the officials daily. When no prison’s work to do, they had to do outside work to earn money. One of the monk- prisoners  from Myitkyina died of those strain.

About his escape from the prison camp, he told that as the camp was fenced with barbed wire propped by 10 feet high tree trunks, he had to climb up and strode over and his hands and legs were torn by barbs of the wire. Then he had to try to climb over the second barbed wire fence about 15 feet high. His hands were bloody. When he was able to climb over the second barbed wire fence, he felt safer. Without being able to take care of his injured hands and legs, he had to run by the light of a gas-lighter. It took 4 or 5 hours in climbing down of some steep gradients. When he faced some thick bushes, he had to roll himself on. He had to follow the foot path of animals on all four when he faced some thorny bushes. Although he was afraid of animals of prey, he had to run to cover distance. He at that time got very hungry and thirsty and had to eat some eastern gooseberry and continued running two days and nights. For being unable to climb up some steep ascent, he had to downstream along some creeks that made him more distant. Although he came across some villages he dared not enter lest he should be arrested and went around. He had to recite Buddha’s parita, patan and attributes of Buddha as reliance. Later he was too feeble to recite them and he was only able to concentrate. Fortunately he came across a Chin youth who gave him a packet of rice, a bottle of water and three cucumbers. He devoured the food and asked him to show the right way and he did. He was very grateful him and gave him 2000 Kyats he had. Then he got to the city of Aizawl of Mizoram state.

And he told his view on the arrest and torture of monks. Even under the rule of British and Japanese, monks had never been brutally oppressed. It was unexpressable that the junta that wanted to be regarded as the supporter of Buddhism oppressed the monks inhumanely and brutally to the best of his own experience. He’d like them to stop or they would be recorded as a tyrant worse than Hitler of Germany. Now most of the dictators through out the world have got removed one after another. If the junta gets repentant, there may be some time for them. Its obsession of hatred and prejudice make both them and people suffered and unhappy.

As soon as they get regretted, everything can be changed otherwise the poverty of Burmese people gets deeper and deeper. He concluded,” I’d like to urge the junta to right the wrongs of theirs.”

These are U Pyinnya Thiri’s words and view on his experience of a prisoner of the junta.

Ref: The media interviews with U Pyinnya Thiri.

Recorded by Ah Shin Zawana.