Friday, June 21, 2013

That's Insein

Insein Prison near Yangon (formerly Rangoon), Myanmar (formerly Burma). 

The most feared place all of Myanmar is just outside Rangoon, a musty colonial era complex known as Insein Prison (fittingly, it rhymes with "insane"). Over the years it became the Burmese junta's go to place for imprisonment of political prisoners. 

It's a place where beatings and torture were common. It's a place where people went and never came back from. In 2008 more than 100 prisoners were shot by guards after they started a fire to warm themselves. 

Thousands of people have been imprisoned there. Aung San Suu Kyi has been locked up there three times. Ngwe Soe Lin, a young journalist with the Democratic Voice of Burma, was locked up for recording and distributing video of orphaned children after Cyclone Nargis. 

Insein is still a hell hole, but Burma is changing. Suu Kyi is in parliament and could run for president. Ngwe Soe Lin, and many other political prisoners, have been released as Myanmar continues down the road of political reform. 

To me, from this angle, the prison looks like a Buddhist Dharma Wheel. The Dharma Wheel, or "Wheel of Life," is symbol that has represented the Buddha's teachings since the early period of Indian Buddhism. The prison was built during British colonial times and I doubt that the concepts of Buddhism played a role in British design of the prison. I can't help but wonder if the Burmese generals in the junta saw a Dharma wheel in their prison when they sent people to their house of horrors. 

This is the last picture I made in Yangon. I was reflecting on my time in Yangon from the window seat on my flight back to Bangkok when the prison came into the view I made a couple of frames, the plane banked and the prison was behind me. In a way it was karma that I even had a chance to make this picture. I normally sit on the left side of the plane and normally in an aisle seat. (I am predictable in that way.) But for some reason on this flight I took a window seat on the right side of the plane. I would have completely missed this photo if I had been sitting where I usually sit.  
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