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PEN International was delighted to launch two new PEN Centres – PEN Delhi and PEN Myanmar – at our 79th International Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland, on 12 September 2013.

We look forward to these Centres making a valuable contribution to PEN’s work to defend freedom of expression and promote literature.

Below is the text of the speech by blogger, activist, and winner of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, Nay Phone Latt to the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International proposing the PEN Myanmar Centre.
Introducing PEN Myanmar – Nay Phone Latt

Good Evening Ladies and Gentleman,

I am Nay Phone Latt from Proposed PEN Myanmar. I would like to highlight the brief background of PEN Myanmar’s interesting Journey to here.

As soon as Dr. Ma Thida was released from pirson in 1999, she started trying to contact PEN America center for saying thanks for it’s award to her. She was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 1996. And in 2005, she visited PEN London office and met Joanne Leedom-Ackermann, Marian Botsford Fraser and others, then also visited some PEN centers in Europe including PEN Catalan in Barcelona. Then in late 2005, she also visited PEN American and met Larry Siems. Since then she had been in touch with some of them, and keep thinking of trying to setting up PEN Center in Myanmar. Also in 2007 she met Mohamed Magani from Algeria and was invited to attend a conference in Algiers where she also met Takeaki Hori.

Then she met Salil Tripathi in April 2012, and because of him, she was recently got in touch with Paul Finegan and others from PEN International. Finally at Krakov, Poland in June this year, she met several other PEN people and discussed detail about how we can set up PEN Myanmar centre for Myanmar. She also met again Anders Heger from PEN Norway both in Poland and Norway (June this year again at a literary festival). So via emails, she learned a lot from all PEN people about what we need to set up a Centre in Myanmar. Finally in early and end of July, two groups of PEN people visited Myanmar and according to her arrangement, they met writers and publishers who are interested in setting up PEN.

Now our country is in the transition period form Military Regime to democractic society and the future of our country is in the hand of its citizens. How much we can try our best will determine the destiny of our country. To get the democractic society , the role of civil society is very important and the connection between the global family is also important. In the age of Military Regime, we didn’t have the chance to form that kind of organization and to connect with the international organizations. But now, we have a chance and we need to grab it firmly. So this is the time to start.

To start our first step, we have 23 active members in our initial working group and the PEN award winners and some of honourable writers will be as the Honourary Members. Although in the transition period in Myanmar, because of some political sensitivity, PEN Myanmar takes a lot of conscious and careful arrangement in order to have PEN as a professional organization. Right now, the draft of Law regarding the Organization is also still in dilemma. But hopefully, the new law regarding the Organization will be acceptable and will pass sooner or later. So when I arrived back to our country with your supports , we can be publicized and recruit more members and then we can hold the all inclusive Assembly to organise Center Election.

After forming the PEN Myanmar, we already thought the working plan for 2014. We have three projects according to our aims and missions.

1. Conducting media watch on issues about freedom of expression: the impact of local laws, policies, enforcement and cases , it is for our first aim to protect and promote freedom of expression
2. Organising interactive discussions between writers and readers , it is for our second aim to establish a new culture of literature in Myanmar
3. Conducting research on literature curriculum in the schools of other countries and introducing the creactive writing courses in schools , it is for our third aim to build a bridge between school education and esthetic/ creactive literature and to pormote it.

I met Zaganar , the famous Comedian of our country, in the prison. When we heard the news that I was awarded the PEN Babara GoldSmith (The Freedom to Write Award) by the PEN America, we told that in the near future we will have to form that kind of Organization in our country and we also have to support the other countries worse than ours. Actually , PEN Myanmar is our dream. Now I am here to go forward to make our dream come true and we need your supports to do so. We strongly believe that to create the peaceful Global Family by helping and supporting each other is the duty of all human beings. In the bitter past, we have to be the Object , just accepting the others’ support. For the brighter future, we want to be the Subject that can support and help the victims around the world. We will try to be a part of our State Building Process and at the same time, we will also try to be part of our Peaceful Planet Building Process.

Thanks you for your attention.