Ma Thida

 

In Myanmar, Thida is best known as a leading intellectual, whose books deal with the country's political situation. She has worked as an editor at a Burmese monthly youth magazine and a weekly newspaper. She has been a surgeon at the Muslim Free Hospital, which provides free services to the poor.

 

In October 1993, she was sentenced to 20 years in Insein Prison for "endangering public peace, having contact with illegal organisations, and distributing unlawful literature." In fact, she was actively supporting Aung San Suu Kyi. She served nearly six years in unhealthy, mostly solitary conditions. During this time she was awarded several international human rights awards, including the Reebok Human Rights Award (1996) and the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award (1996). Ma Thida said, "Were it not for vipassana (Buddhist meditation), I would not have overcome the untold hardships I faced in prison." In 1999, she was released on "humanitarian grounds" after serving five years, six months and six days.

 

She is currently writing her memoirs and will be in conversation with Philip Sherwell, Daily Telegraph, Asia correspondent, discussing Is Burma still at a fork in the road.