“Ma Thida prisoner of conscience” – review on ABC’s Earshot Program

Breathe in – Breathe out…  Which cell is she going to?… Breathe in – Breathe outWhy didn’t I hear the key in the lock?Breathe in – Breathe outPlease! Please! I hope it’s not a problem for anyone.” 

Ma Thida (San Chaung)

This vipassana meditative practice is how our long-time human rights defender, writer and activist of Myanmar, Ma Thida (San Chaung), passed her time in Myanmar’s notorious colonial-era Insein Prison. In this powerful and beautifully produced podcast by Claudia Taranto for ABC Radio National program, Earshot, Ma Thida discusses her profound experience as a prisoner of conscience. Additional context is provided by two people who know her well: journalist and activist, U Myo Myint Nyein and former diplomat Vicky Bowman. Translation was provided by Ma Myint Myint San.  

Ma Myint Myint San, co-founder of WAM (Women Activists Myanmar), came to know Ma Thida in what now feels like a past life in a world away; predating 1 February coup as since after the coup, Min Aung Hlaing and his military has opened a Pandora’s box of disasters to Myanmar’s evolving tragedy.  Our very humble Ma Myint Myint San felt embarrassed to have her name credited on this Earshot episode considering Ma Thida’s significance in Myanmar’s politics and culture. She has worked with the writer in the past, on the translation of Ma Thida’s memoir, Prisoner of Conscience: My Steps through Insein, published by Silkworm in 2016. Ma Myint Myint San met Ma Thida in person in 2005 when Ma Thida visited Chiang Mai where Ma Myint Myint San was working at the time. 

We ‘WAMers,’ a nickname WAM members have adopted, found this podcast both moving and educational. Effectively calming music backgrounds Ma Thida’s voice as she relays the terrible suffering and pain she endured and the compassion she felt for her brave fellow travellers in prison. (‘Brave Traveller’ is the translation of a pseudonym she has used). Indeed, her extraordinary life is both amazing and humbling. Every word and every sentence compel curiosity and captivates the listener. 

We are very fortunate to be able to listen to Ma Thida personally recount the difficult path she has taken and how, through the practice of Buddhism, she continues to face the brutal realities of Myanmar’s shifting fortunes.  

If you can spare 30 minutes, we encourage you to listen to the wisdom and strength of Ma Thida in this exceptional podcast. Afterwards, you, like us, may feel the urgent need to read her book.  

Ma Thida’s Prisoner of Conscience: My Steps through Insein can be found on Kindle or Amazon at:  https://www.amazon.com/Prisoner-Conscience-Steps-through-Insein/dp/6162151239. 

Reviewed by Mon Zin, a member of WAM, with the help of WAM Social Media Team

ရှူသွင်း…ရှူထုတ်“… သူဘယ်အကျဥ်းခန်းကိုသွားရမှာပါလိမ့်… “ရှူသွင်း…ရှူထုတ်“… သော့ခလောက်သံငါဘာလို့မကြားရတာလဲ…”ရှူသွင်း…ရှူထုတ်” .. .ဘုရား..ဘုရား… ဘယ်သူမှဘာမှမဖြစ်ပါစေနဲ့…။


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