Insein Prison in Rangoon, Myanmar

In a strangely morbid irony, the name of Myanmar‘s notorious Insein Prison is pronounced in the same way we would pronounce “Insane Prison”. And as if this game of words was not enough, the pronunciation of the prison’s name is more than fitting. The Insein Prison gained its notoriety after one of their rumoured inmates – Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Aerial Photo of Insein Prison in Rangoon, Myanmar, Image by Microsoft Map via BBC News
Aerial Photo of Insein Prison in Rangoon, Myanmar, Image by Microsoft Map via BBC News

Notorious around the world for frequent use of both mental and physical torture and less than inhuman conditions, the military junta run Insein Prison is part of the ruling party’s vehicles used to maintain control over Myanmar (Burma). Most of the inmates in Insein Prison are political dissidents or people who otherwise get in the way of the government’s totalitarian rule.

Insein Prison is located in the old capital of Myanmar – Rangoon (Yangon). Myanmar’s human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi is believed to have been held prisoner there on three different occasions – once in 2003, then again in 2007 and one more time in 2009. It was his imprisonment that brought worldwide media attention to Insein Prison and based on the findings of investigative journalists, serving a sentence at Insein often sentenced the prisoner to death.

Insein Prison is overcrowded. At times it holds more than 10,000 inmates yet its capacity is less than half of that. Prisoners are forced to sleep on bare concrete and are deprived of a chance to take a shower. Add to it the fact that they are also often left inside their cells with hand chained to the wall and legs kept wide apart by metal bars, the conditions are perfect for communicable diseases to spread easily and quickly. With only 3 doctors available to assist sick inmates, many die before adequate medical care could be provided.

There really is no surprise that Insein Prison is dubbed “the darkest hell-home in Burma.” Sources from the prison itself confirm that many inmates died within its walls while serving their sentence there. Unfortunately, Myanmar continues being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The ruling party is having themselves an unchallenged lifestyle and is not looking to part with it anytime soon.

It goes without saying that each time a foreigner takes a trip to Myanmar, they are irreversibly supporting this totalitarian government. Unfortunately, while most of the income from tourism ends up in the pockets of the elite, without it the life for the ordinary folk would be even worse. It’s a catch 22 that doesn’t come with an easy way out. As a vacation destination, Insein Prison could be a questionable choice, but given how increasingly popular Thanatourism is getting, it might be an interesting landmark to visit. That if you can get past the fact that while you’re out there taking pictures, somebody inside is being tortured, or is dying due to inhuman conditions they are forced to live in.

The video below was shot just meters away from Insein prison which is normally guarded and any attempts to photograph or film it are frowned upon:

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