Sunday, 17 November 2019

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Poet of secret Than Shwe insult freed

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Human Rights Watch award-winning poet Saw Wei was released today, his wife said, 18 months into a two-year jail term for indirectly ridiculing Burmese junta chief Senior General Than Shwe as “power crazy”. 

Saw Wei, 50, had published in 2008 the poem February 14 that spelled out “Power crazy senior general Than Shwe” when the first characters of each stanza were originally pieced together by readers. The junta quickly learned of the jibe and he received a two-year prison sentence on charges of “disaffection to the state”. 

He was released from Yemaethin prison six months before his scheduled release date. 

“He phoned me today at about 9 a.m. and said he had been released”, his wife Nan San San Aye told Mizzima.

The Prisons Department first sent poet Saw Wei to the neighbouring city of Naypyidaw, the Burmese capital, and he was now on his way home to Rangoon, where was expected to arrive about midnight.

Rights advocate Human Rights Watch based in New York awarded Saw Wei its Hellman/Hammett award last year for expressing his opinion bravely under repression and heavy restrictions on freedom of speech. 

His poem appeared in the January 21, 2008 issue of Ah Chit (Love) journal without being noticed by state censors. Police arrested him only after the poem became widely known to readers. 

The special tribunal heard his case in Insein prison and sentenced him to two-years imprisonment on November 10, 2008.  Burmese law allows for sentence reduction for good behaviour, but sentencing does not include any time served during often lengthy remand and interrogation periods.  

The Burmese junta is fanatically sensitive to criticism and closely monitors the media. Activists have resorted to elaborate methods to get their messages across. 

The BBC reported in 2008 that an advertisement had been placed the year before in one of Burma’s main newspapers for a Swedish travel company that contained the hidden message, “Killer Than Shwe”. The travel firm did not really exist.


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