Myanmar: Two-year sentence for leading poet

*** UPDATE: To mark the second anniversary of Burmese poet Saw Wei‘s arrest and imprisonment, English PEN, the Democratic Party for a New Society in Burma (DPNS) and London-based poets will be holding a poetry protest outside the Burmese Embassy in London. We will be calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Saw Wei and of the many other Burmese writers of concern to PEN, including Honorary Members Aung San Suu Kyi and Zargana.


The protest will take place on Sunday 14 February 2010, between 2 and 3pm outside the Burmese Embassy in London (19A Charles Street, London, W1J 5DX) Please do join us if you can, and bring Valentine balloons and cards addressed to Saw Wei.  ***


English PEN strongly protests the two-year prison sentence handed down to leading poet Saw Wei, for a poem critical of the authorities. English PEN is calling for Saw Wei’s immediate and unconditional release, as well as of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


On 10 November 2008, it was reported that Saw Wei had been sentenced to two years imprisonment for the poem entitled ‘February the Fourteenth’, published in the Rangoon-based weekly magazine Love Journal.  Saw Wei’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 Wei was arrested on 22 January 2008, for this poem:


‘February 14th’  by Saw Wei


Arensberg said:
Only once you have experienced deep pain
And madness
And like an adolescent
Thought the blurred photo of a model
Great art
Can you call it heartbreak.
Millions of people
Who know how to love
Please clap your gilded hands
And laugh out loud.

Trans. Anon
Code: the first syllables say Ar (Arensberg), Na (pain), Yu (mad), Gyi (great), Hmu (Blurred), Gyi (age/big), Than (million), Shwe (gilded)
Which spells
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 19 August 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 crackdown on any expressions of dissent.  Yesterday, 11 November 2008, it was reported that about forty Burmese dissidents, including human rights defenders and Buddhists monks have been sentenced by a court in Insein Prison, Rangoon, to up to sixty-five years in prison. 


For further background, please see:


Appeals to Myanmar (Burma) Embassies:

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 the UK:


– Protesting the two-year sentence imposed on leading poet Saw Wei;
– 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.


Appeals to:


His Excellency U Nay Win
Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
19A Charles Street
Berkeley Square
London W1J 5DX


Letters to the press:

PEN members may consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Burma, and highlighting Saw Wei’s case to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.

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