Burma’s Living Hell

Children in Jail and Dead Man Walking
By Kim Gooi

[I complained that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet]

Ten months in Keng Tung jail, after seeing death, beatings and torture I thought nothing would disturb or surprise me anymore. I was wrong.

What a shock to see the numbers of children running about in the prison compound, the lepers, the crippled, the blind, the lunatics, TB patients and the living zombies (people who had given up the will to live and had to be force-fed by friends). They were there in their hundreds and thousands.

Skin disease like scabies were so rampant that as high as 90 percent of the inmates were affected, including the author, despite the privilege of staying in the hospital. Luckily for me I got out by the second month and seek medical
treatment back in Penang.

Could people believe it? The children born in the jail and grew up in the jail, never seen the outside world. What crime had they committed, except to be born in the wrong place?

The oldest one I was told was 17 or 18 already. They were children of refugees, illegal immigrants and non citizens, collectively called FRC which stand for “Foreign Registration Card (holders)”.

There were Chinese FRCs, Indian FRCs, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and tribal FRCs from Nagaland.

Some were still in the belly of their pregnant mother when the whole family were arrested, while others were tiny tots. I saw about 20 of them, aged five years to 15, running about in the hospital compound where I was lucky to b admitted and stayed until my release.

A lot more of the very young children (below 5) stayed with their mothers in the woman section of the prison. Once a week the fathers were allowed to visit the children or to bring them over to the hospital compound for a couple of hours.

There were no words to describe them – the Living Dead – these wretched and pitiful souls.

You see it in their eyes in their faces. Eyes thet were beyond sorrows and suffering; and faces that their tortured mind had turned puffy, bloated and mongoloid-like.

These were the walking zombies. They had known a long time ago, that the Burmese authorities would never released them. They were going to die in jail. They had seen their death hundreds of times before. Not a swift clean death but
slow agonizing and most horrifying.

Maybe in two years, maybe five or twenty years; the filth, disease and worst of all, the mental agony would get them. They had seen their friends and love-ones die in this manner, released from the terror and agony via the ‘Black Box’.

They were now mentally dead and had to be forced-fed by friends and loved-ones. Of all the ugly sights in Insein Jail, this was the most disturbing and haunting. How could humans be so cruel to his fellow human beings.

 

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