June 26, 2008

His Excellency U Myint Lwin
Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar to the United States
2300 S St. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 332-4351

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the arrest of journalist Zaw Thet Htwe.

According to our information, Zaw Thet Htwe was arrested on June 13, 2008, while visiting his sick mother in the town of Minbu, central Burma, and transferred to an interrogation center in Yangon. His computer, mobile phone, and personal documents were confiscated, and no details were given to his family about the reason for his arrest or his place of detention. Prior to his arrest, Zaw Thet Htwe was working with comedian Zargana and other leading Burmese figures to deliver aid and support to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, which struck on May 2, 2008. Zargana was arrested on June 4, 2008 after openly criticizing the military regime’s response to the cyclone and remains detained

Zaw Thet Htwe formerly worked as editor of First Eleven Sports Journal, a popular sports journal in Myanmar, and was previously arrested in July 2003 on charges of treason following the publication of critical articles in the magazine. He was sentenced to death on November 28, 2003, by a military court in Insein Jail, but on May 12, 2004, the Supreme Court reduced his sentence to three years in prison and he was released in 2005. He also spent several years in detention in the 1990s for his work with the banned political organization Democratic Party for a New Society, which is now operating in exile.

PEN American Center believes the arrest of Zaw Thet Htwe to be in direct violation of his right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which Myanmar has signed. We therefore respectfully call for his immediate and unconditional release and the release of all others imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC:  His Excellency U Kyaw Tint Swe
Ambassador to the United Nations
Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations
10 East 77th Street
New York, NY 10021
Fax: (212) 737-2421

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