Two-Year Sentence for Leading Poet
International PEN strongly protests the two-year prison sentence handed down to leading poet Saw Wai for a poem critical of the authorities. PEN calls for Saw Wai’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
On November 10, 2008 it was reported that Saw Wai had been sentenced to two years in prison for the poem entitled “February the Fourteenth,” published in the Rangoon-based weekly magazine Love Journal. Saw Wai’s piece, published in the January 2008 issue of the magazine, was shaped as a love poem which cryptically criticized General Than Shwe, the head of Burma's ruling military junta. Saw Wai was arrested on January 22, 2008, for this poem:
February 14th“ by Saw Wai
Only once you have experienced deep pain
And like an adolescent
Thought the blurred photo of a model
Can you call it heartbreak.
Millions of people
Who know how to love
Please clap your gilded hands
And laugh out loud.
Code: the first syllables say Ar (Arensberg), Na (pain), Yu (mad), Gyi (great), Hmu (Blurred), Gyi (age/big), Than (million), Shwe (gilded)
Ar-na-yu-gyi Hmu-gyi Than Shwe - Power-crazed Senior General Than Shwe
A major crackdown in Burma has been underway since early September 2007 following demonstrations led by monks and pro-democracy activists, which began on August 19, 2007. Writers and journalists are among the scores of people to have been detained. All of those arrested in the crackdown in September 2007 are now thought to have been freed, but many remain under heavy restrictions, and the authorities are continuing to crack down on any expressions of dissent. On November 11, 2008, it was reported that about 40 Burmese dissidents, including human rights defenders and Buddhists monks, were sentenced by a court in Insein Prison, Rangoon, to up to 65 years in prison.
Write A Letter
While the situation in Burma is still critical, letters sent to the country may not be received or taken as a priority. It is therefore recommended that appeals be sent to the diplomatic representative of Myanmar (Burma) in your own country.
- Protesting the two-year sentence imposed on leading poet Saw Wai.
- Demanding his immediate and unconditional release, and that of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Volunteers may consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Burma, and highlighting Saw Wai’s case to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.