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Saw Wei was released from Yamethin Prison, Mandalay Division, on May 26, 2010—nearly five months after his sentence expired.

Case History

Saw Wei is a Burmese poet and performance artist well known for his romantic poetry. Before his arrest, Saw Wei headed the White Rainbow poetry recital group, an organization of artist and writers working to raise money for AIDS orphans. Although at one point employed by the government communications office, Saw Wei was dismissed from his job after taking part in the 1988 Uprising against the military junta.

Saw Wei was arrested on January 2, 2008, after his poem “February the Fourteenth,” an eight-line verse about Valentine’s Day, was published in the Rangoon-based weekly magazine Love Journal. An acrostic poem, when the first letters of each line are put together, they read “General Than Shwe is crazy with power” in Burmese. The weekly magazine quickly sold out as word spread of the coded message.

On November 10, 2008, Saw Wei was sentenced to two years in prison for “inducing crime against public tranquility.” His wife expressed deep concern for his health, citing his condition at the trial where he was unable to maintain a single position for long periods of time due to pain.

Starting in early September 2007, a major crackdown was underway in Burma, following demonstration by monks and pro-democracy activists, which began on August 19, 2007. Writers and journalists are among the scores of people who were detained. On November 11, 2008, it was reported that about 40 Burmese dissidents, including human rights defenders and Buddhist monks, were sentenced by a court in Insein Prison, Rangoon, to up to 65 years in prison.