January 17, 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 journalists and poets Zaw Thet Htwe and U Zeya, but remain concerned for the writers who remain behind bars.

According to our information, on January 13, 2012, PEN Honorary Member Zaw Thet Htwe and journalist U Zeya were among 651 prisoners released as part of a presidential amnesty announced the previous day. However, at least another five writers are believed to be detained in Myanmar for their peaceful dissident activities and writings. They include Aung Than, Zeya Aung, Maung Maung Oo, and Sein Hlaing, who were sentenced to between seven and 19 years in prison for the publication of an “anti-government” book of poems entitled Dawn Mann (The Fighting Spirit of the Peacock). Editor Nyi Nyi Tun is also serving a 13-year sentence for his critical reporting.

PEN American Center welcomes the release of Zaw Thet Htwe and U Zeya, but continues to urge the Myanmar 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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