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HRW award for poet, who ridiculed Than Shwe

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The imprisoned poet, who famously ridiculed the junta Supremo Senior Gen. Than Shwe, calling him ‘power crazy’ has been awarded the Hellman/Hammet prize by Human Rights Watch.

Saw Wei was selected for the prize by the New York-based group, among 37 writers from 19 countries for 2009.

The award is "in recognition of his commitment to free expression and courage in the face of political persecution," HRW said in its website.

“We are proud of Ko Saw Wei,” a family member from Rangoon told Mizzima over telephone. Saw Wei’s wife was not available as she was on her way to prison to meet her husband.

The Burma Media Association (BMA) has welcomed the award going to the Burmese poet.

“We are glad and welcome the news. We are proud of the poet. Ko Saw Wei exercised his right to freedom of expression bravely and was sent to prison,” BMA Secretary San Moe Wei, based in Thailand said.

The popular poem ‘February 14’ was published in a domestic weekly journal, ‘Ah Chit’ (Love). The word ‘power crazy Senior Gen. Than Shwe’ appeared when the first word of each stanza in the poem was pieced together.

The Burmese regime, which is known for its intolerance to criticism, arrested him and charged him under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code, which covers acts disrespecting the State. He was sentenced to two years in prison. He is being held in Yemethin prison in Mandalay.

The Hellman/Hammett prize was named after the American playwright Lillian Hellman. The prize is being awarded since 1989.

Aung Tun, the author of ‘History of Burmese Students Movement’ was awarded the prize in 1999.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 October 2009 22:30 )  

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