iSee Insein Prison

Notoriously ‘insane’ prison complex with ingenious design

‘Insane’ prison

Also known as the ‘darkest hellhole in Burma’, Insein Prison was once the largest prison in the British Empire. Insein Prison was notorious for its inhumane conditions, torture tactics and brutal treatment of prisoners during the army regime years (1962- 2010). In 2008, prisoners protested after authorities refused to repair the prison after damage caused by Cyclone Nargis, the conflict escalated and even cost lives.

The lady

Aung San Suu Kyi was briefly detained at Insein Prison in 2003, 2007 and 2009. It is still in use as a high security prison, so not open to public.

The giant’s eye

The design is based on the famous Panopticon design: an ingenious circular shape with a central tower from which all corners of the compound are visible, so all inmates at all times feel they are being watched. Initially devised by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century, the name Panopticon derives from Greek mythology, in which Panoptes was a giant with a hundred eyes.

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