U Win Tin's Final Hours

ko ko thett
Apr 22nd, 2014

ko ko thett celebrates the life and mourns the death of U Win Tin, co-founder with Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma's National League for Democracy.

Burma's National League for Democracy has announced the death of U Win Tin, who founded the democracy movment with Aung San Suu Kyi in 1988 and spent twenty years in prison before his release in 2008. A respected journalist, he spent much of his life in the struggle against the military junta. ko ko thett remembers his unwavering integrity and courage in this post.


[A Collage of Excerpts from U Win Tin’s 2010 Memoir, Hell On Earth, Followed by a Semi-Fictional Account]


                     They fear him because he is incorruptible. 

                                                       Aung San Suu Kyi


I turned eighty today. Crematorium is within sight for an octogenarian. Not very far. Not very far, I said. Don’t ask, ‘How far?’ Don’t come tell me, ‘You have a long way to go.’ I know the final destination is near. I know the crematorium is in my premises. I know my days are numbered. I know death is close. Above all, I know I still have a lot of things to do. And I will do what I can.
For twenty years, I have seen and heard jail comedy, jail tragedy, jail gags and jail tears; dukkha in jail, anguish in jail, routine in jail, woes and worries in jail, appreciative joy at other people’s wellbeing in jail, determination in jail, struggle in jail, political activism in jail, wisdom and knowledge in jail, transcendental state of mind in jail, the essence of jail, the look and the logic of jail, and the biography of jail.
They ripped me of my housing entitlement when they sent me to jail. They ripped me of my pension and all other benefits. I lost all my teeth during the interrogation by Military Intelligence. I gummed jail food; coarse rice and boiled vegetable simply to keep myself alive. For eight years. I can’t describe my jail dukkha in words. I got gastritis in jail. For five years, they didn’t treat my hernia. They didn’t send me to hospital. They left me alone to rot. It was too late by the time my hernia was operated on. My internal organs were already crammed. They got too entangled with my nerves. The operation has left one of my thighs permanently in pain. I lost one of my testicles. Now my heart condition is sending me to necropolis.
For twenty years, I was in an isolation cell. They cut me off from other political prisoners and criminal convicts. Let alone speaking with mates from the room next door, they wouldn’t hear me yell as there were three or four empty rooms (32 by 48 feet) between my cell and my neighbour’s.
At eighty, I have no home. No money. No head for thought. I have become a fucking blockhead. No strength for movement. A crippled old man with a series of diseases. No refuge. I can’t even visit monasteries and pagodas, homes of friends and relatives, public gardens, offices, markets, museums, hospitals and graveyards on my own. I can’t. I am always followed by informants on motorcycles.   
As in Tin Moe’s poem, I know my cheroot has burned down. I know the sun is brown. Yet I won’t ask, ‘Will someone take me home?’
Level or not the playing field may be, but I still want to be on the pitch.
I turned eighty-five last month.
The other day doctors said they had successfully operated on my kidney. You never buy what doctors sell in this country. Since I turned eighty, I’ve been more than prepared for this. They say I have multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS). They have fixed me up on oxygen therapy. Doesn’t Burma have MODS? Why don’t they fix the country up with oxygen therapy?
I thank the painkillers. I thank my supporters, friends and comrades.
Don’t keep me for the wake. Bury me instantly.
Don’t worry. I will see myself out.


- Hell On Earth (2010, Democratic Voice of Burma) translated and collaged by ko ko thett

- Hell On Earth - Original text in Burmese

- Great Guest by Tin Moe, translation by Anna Allott 


ko ko thett
Last blog date: Nov 27th, 2014


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