Poet Saw Wai freed four months after completing two-year jail term

Published on 31 May 2010

Reporters Without Borders and its partner organisation, the Burma Media Association, are “outraged” that the politically committed poet Saw Wai was not released until 26 May, four months after completing the two-year jailed sentence he received for a poem that contained a concealed criticism of the head of the military government, Gen. Than Shwe.

“We call on the military government to explain why Saw Wai was not released in January, as he should have been,” the two organisations said. “We also take this opportunity to call for the immediate release of the bloggers Nay Phone Latt and Zarganar and the journalists Hla Hla Win and Win Maw.”

A romantic poet, Saw Wai, was arrested by the military on 22 January 2008, the day after a Valentine’s Day poem by him, entitled “14 February” was published in the popular weekly Achit Journal (Love Journal). Read vertically, the first words of each line formed the phrase: “Power crazy Senior General Than Shwe.”

At least 12 Burmese journalists are currently imprisoned. Some are serving jail terms of more than 20 years. The blogger Nay Phone Latte is serving a sentence of 20 years and six months in prison. Other journalists and netizens serving long and unjustified sentences include Zarganar (45 years), Hla Hla Win (27 years) and Win Maw (16 years).

Burma was ranked 171st out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index while Gen. Than Shwe is on the Reporters Without Borders list of 40 “Predators of Press Freedom.”