Page last updated at 20:11 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 21:11 UK

Dissidents reflect on Burma uprising

This week two Burmese dissidents spoke to the BBC about their country and how things have developed since events one year ago, when monks took to the streets to protest against their government.


Win Tin
Win Tin intends to restart his political career at the age of 79
Win Tin, who was one of 9,000 prisoners released last week, spent 19 years behind bars. A prominent journalist, he was one of the founders of the opposition National League for Democracy.

Before 2003 I was treated very badly.

Sometimes I was not allowed to sleep; sometimes I was not allowed to eat. For all the time, I was in solitary confinement.

I was interrogated up until 1995. I would be asked questions for hours without being allowed to sleep, for four or five days at a stretch.

Deprivation of sleep is torture, of course.

Sometimes I would be put in the field, handcuffed at the back and with a hood on my head, and I would be put there for hours - from seven in the evening to four in the morning.

I have seen many prisoners who were not given enough food. They would have only one big scoop of rice to last a week. If they asked for more, they were beaten.

Sometimes I feel hatred towards those who treated me this way, but not for long. But I am still angry towards the oppressive military machine.

It is a puzzle as to why the regime released me now, but it was almost impossible for them to keep me longer. I was sentenced to 20 years and I had served 19.

The other thing is that I'm not healthy. I have heart disease. They could not just leave me.

I think there might be some political undercurrent here.

I have noticed a lot of changes since I came out. The telephones for example - before I went to prison, it was impossible to make a call.

But I cannot define all the changes as progress - they are not.

Conditions are almost exactly like in 1988, with people being so poor and finding it so hard to earn their living.

I will continue with my campaign for democracy. I have to. I am nearly 80 now, but in prison I told the authorities I would be going into politics in the country - not because I am well-versed in political affairs, or because I have followers, but because it's my duty.

It's because there have been no democratic changes since I was imprisoned. In fact it's worse.


Monks in Burma
Ashin Pannasiri was among the monks in last year's protest
Ashin Pannasiri was one of the leading monks in last year's uprising. He was arrested in October 2007 in Upper Burma.

At interrogation centres, I was disrobed and made to do sit-ups several times.

I was also slapped and punched in the face. My interrogators stepped on my toes with their army boots.

In May I was sent to a labour camp in Chin State, which borders India.

There I was chained on both legs and had to break stones and dig ditches. I and another 100 prisoners worked seven days a week without any break. We were given very little food and were always hungry.

In the early hours of 16 September, I crossed the two rows of barbed wires surrounding the camp - and fled.

I was covered in blood, with scratches from the spikes - but fled as I feared for my life.

I walked through the jungle day and night towards the Indian border and reached there after two days.

I now live in Delhi and will continue the struggle as long as injustice prevails in Burma.

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