Kyaw Hsan was sentenced in 2000 at the age of 15 on charges of ‘inciting public unrest’ – he had attempted, along with other protestors, to run a police barricade in Rangoon, and spent five years in prison. He now lives in Thailand.
I had been organising transport for delegates coming to the CRPP (Committee Representing the Peoples’ Parliament) second anniversary in Rangoon when I was arrested. It was September 2000, and nearly 40 people were attempting to break the police barricade around the conference. I was one of them, and Military Intelligence (MI) arrested me. I was 15 at the time.
They took me to Navy Base 3 in Dawbaung township in Rangoon and the interrogation began. It lasted for more than a month. The torture was really bad, and conditions were poor. I was regularly beaten for nearly three weeks until I confessed to having links to ‘unlawful’ organisations. I was sentenced in December 2000. My trial was in a military court – you just go there for around 15 minutes while the military judge reads your charges, which are handed to them by MI. It’s just ‘Yes’, or ‘No’ – I didn’t have a lawyer.
I was given a 10 year sentence under the Unlawful Associations Act, and for ‘inciting public unrest’. After the navy base they sent me to be interrogated again at the Insein ‘Special Prison’. They were just checking different stories that I gave them.
There were two other teenagers that I knew in prison: one was around 16, and the other was a bit older, 17 I think. I stayed with them in Insein Block 5 where they keep a lot of political prisoners. I even know people who were born in prison.
We stayed with people who believed in democracy so they treated me well, and they didn’t discriminate because of my age. But the guards were actually really bad – they kept beating us if we don’t listen to them or if we broke the law or demonstrated.
Sometimes they’d put me in a solitary cell – in 2001 they had protests inside the prison to demand that inmates be allowed to read. Around 200 people were involved, and most were sent to solitary. I was kept in solitary for 33 days. After this, [former UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio] Pinheiro came to the prison, and so we were allowed to read.
But I was moved to Tharrawaddy prison shortly after because of the reading demonstration. My family weren’t really able to visit me – my aunt came once, but my parents didn’t have the family registration list that prisons require. I was supported by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPPB) who brought me medicine and food.
I was eventually released in December 2005.