Year published :July 2016

Pages :256

Size :14x21 cm.

Black & White illustrations :10

ISBN: 9786162151231

Prisoner of Conscience: My Steps through Insein

by Ma Thida

This is the stirring prison memoir of Ma Thida—surgeon, activist, writer, and recipient of several international human rights awards. From childhood, Ma Thida dreamed of helping others—caring for the sick, not bowing to the threat of censorship, and standing up for people’s rights. She became an indomitable supporter of efforts to stand against the political oppression that had been stifling the country’s progress for decades.

She joined Aung San Suu Kyi and the many other activists in the National League for Democracy, campaigning for the cause of freedom despite intimidation, harassment, and worse. Because of her efforts, the regime sent her to Insein Prison, where she faced serious illness and bleak conditions. However, it was in fighting the obstacles of her imprisonment and following the Buddha’s teachings that Ma Thida found what it means to be truly free. In this memoir, readers join Ma Thida on her path through captivity and witness one remarkable woman’s courageous quest for truth and dignity.

About the Author

Ma Thida is a medical doctor, writer, human rights activist, and leading intellectual in Myanmar. She is the founder and elected president of PEN International’s Myanmar Center. In 2016 she became the inaugural recipient of the Disturbing the Peace Award by the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation.


  • A leading Burmese writer’s firsthand account of life, censorship, and imprisonment under the military junta.
  • Eyewitness narration of campaign trips with Aung San Suu Kyi in the early days of the National League for Democracy.
  • A political prisoner’s story of survival in Myanmar’s infamous but little-understood Insein Prison.
  • Reflections on Vipassana meditation and the liberation it brought to the author.

What Others Are Saying

“A wonderfully engaging and heartfelt account of prison life by one of Burma’s most distinguished literary voices, a story of fortitude and political commitment, but also of the uplifting powers of Vipassana meditation. A very special memoir.”—Thant Myint-U, author of The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma

“In calm, vivid, and clear prose reflecting her unwavering faith and practice of Vipassana meditation, Ma Thida tells her inspiring story without bitterness as we learn of her steadfast commitment to human rights and of how she turns adversity into strength. Her integrity offers hope to a nation emerging from dictatorship, and her compassion is vital in a land that seeks to heal its wounds.”—Salil Tripathi, Chair, Writers in Prison Committee, PEN International

“Life in prison corrodes the soul, but Ma Thida’s memoir shows that it doesn’t have to kill the human spirit. It may seem strange to say, but her account of the depravity wrought by Burma’s generals on people who simply spoke out for democracy is captivating. This is hardly surprising from a doctor, activist, and writer who represents the best and brightest in Burma and belatedly has a leading role in the development of a country that, through its collective will, has now defeated a brutal dictatorship.”—Brad Adams, Asia Director, Human Rights Watch

“Like Ma Thida herself, this book is a powerful blend of literary, medical, political, and spiritual forces. Part personal memoir, prison diary, meditation manual, and human rights manifesto, Ma Thida’s indomitable spirit shines through on every page. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Burma today.”—Emma Larkin, author of Finding George Orwell in Burma


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Myanmar l Insein Prison l Political prisoners l Aung San Suu Kyi l National League for Democracy U Win Tin l Press freedom l Vipassana meditation Buddhism