Home Page > News Item > MYANMAR: Two more writers released in large scale amnesty

RAN 03/12 – Update #1 , 17 January 2012
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is delighted to learn that two more writers have been released on 13 January 2012 as part of a presidential amnesty. Journalist and poet Zaw Thet Htwe (pictured here) and journalist and poet U Zeya are both now back home with their families.
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 Zarganar and the lifting of restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi. However it remains deeply concerned for the continuing plight of at least five writers who remain detained in Myanmar, 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 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression.

At least four writers are now confirmed to have been freed in a presidential amnesty announced on 12 January 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, Zeya Aung, Maung Maung Oo and Sein Hlaing who were sentenced to between 7 and 19 yrs in prison for the publication of an ‘anti-government’ book of poems entitled Dawn Mann (The Fighting Spirit of the Peacock), and editor Nyi Nyi Tun who is serving a thirteen 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 and Human Rights Watch.

For further background and writings of writers detained in Burma, including those recently released, see English PEN
PEN’s WiPC 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.

Send your appeals:
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 urging that all restrictions against them are lifted;
Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, protecting the right to freedom of expression.

Appeals to:
Senior General Thein Sein
Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
c/o Ministry of Defence, Naypyitaw, Union of Myanmar
Salutation: Dear General

Appeals to Myanmar (Burma) Embassies
WiPC strongly recommends that you copy your appeal to the Burmese embassy in your country asking them to forward it to the Burmese authorities and welcoming any comments.

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@pen-international.org

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