PEN International is delighted to learn that two more writers were released on January 13, 2012, as part of a presidential amnesty. Journalist and poet Zaw Thet Htwe and journalist and poet U Zeya are both back home with their families now.
PEN warmly welcomes the positive developments in Burma that has led to the releases of poets, writers, and journalists Win Maw, Nay Phone Latt, Zaw Thet Htwe, and U Zeya in recent days, in addition to the 2011 release of Zargana and the lifting of restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi. However it remains deeply concerned about the continued detention of at least five writers, and continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those who remain detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression. 

Background Information

At least four writers are now confirmed to have been freed in a presidential amnesty announced on January 12, 2011, which, according to Burmese state media, included 651 prisoners. However, at least five writers are believed to be amongst an estimated one thousand political prisoners who remain detained for their peaceful dissident activities and writings. They include Aung Than and 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.

The following background is given by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ):

Human rights groups estimated the Burmese government held between 600 to 1,500 political prisoners before this release. Western governments have held out the release of political prisoners as a pre-condition for removing the economic and financial sanctions they maintain against Burma in response to the past military government's abysmal human rights record.

Thein Sein's military-backed, democratically elected government has initiated a series of reforms, including dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, since assuming office last March. Those moves have included lifting some restrictions on Burma's non-news media, including the removal of pre-publication censorship of non-news publications and greater freedom for local media to report on government policies. The government has also lifted blocks on foreign and exile news websites, including those frequently critical of the current and past military-backed regimes.
For further information on the prisoner amnesty see the following articles by the Burmese news website Mizzima.
For further background and writings of writers detained in Burma, including those recently released, see English PEN.
PEN thanks all those who have supported writers Win Maw, Nay Phone Latt, Zaw Thet Htwe, and U Zeya during their imprisonment and maintained international pressure on their case, which undoubtedly contributed to their release.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the releases of leading musician Win Maw, blogger Nay Phone Latt, journalist and poet Zaw Thet Htwe, and journalist and poet  U Zeya, and calling for all restrictions against them to be lifted;
  • Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Send Your Letter To

Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
Senior General Than Shwe
c/o Ministry of Defence, Naypyitaw, Union of Myanmar
Salutation: Dear General

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Myanmar in your country if possible.