January 13, 2012

Senior General Than Shwe
Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defense
Union of Myanmar

Dear General,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of leading musician Win Maw and prominent blogger Nay Phone Latt, both released as part of a large-scale amnesty.

According to our information, on January 13, 2012, Win Maw and Nay Phone Latt were among 651 prisoners released as part of a presidential amnesty. Win Maw, lead guitarist of popular Burmese band Shwe Thansin, was originally arrested on November 27, 2007, and charged with threatening national security with his song writing and reporting on the crackdowns on monks and pro-democracy activists, which began in September 2007. He was beaten and tortured during the early years of his detention, and in 2009, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was also previously detained from 1997-2003 for writing songs in support of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy.

Nay Phone Latt, blogger, poet, and recipient of the 2010 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, was originally arrested January 29, 2008, and sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison, reduced to 12 years on appeal. He was targeted for his blogging activities surrounding the 2007 Saffron Uprising. He has continued to write poetry even while imprisoned.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Win Maw and Nay Phone Latt, but continues to urge the Burmese authorities to lift all remaining restrictions against them, and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those still detained in Myanmar in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by of Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Han Thu
Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar in the United States
2300 S St. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 332-4351

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