Five writers released in October amnesty, hundreds more political prisoners still in jail

SEAPA update: As of 26 December, 11 out of the more than 1500 political prisoners in Burma have been identified as journalists, a blogger and a poet. We update here our 14 October alert on the issue, the changes are in bold. All other information and quotes are retained from the original alert.


14 October 2011

Five writers (Three writers) were among 220 political prisoners released on 12 Oct under Burma’s presidential amnesty for over 6000 prisoners. Burma still has an identified number of eleven writers and photographers among hundreds other political prisoner in prisons across the country.

The five writers set free were Lay Lay Mon (aka) Phoo Ngone from Shwebo Prison in Sagaing Region; Myanmar Nation journal office administrator Sein Win Maung (aka) Win Swe from Kengtung Prison in Shan State; writer Hla Soe from Mandalay Prison; and reporters Mrat Tun and San Lwin from Narinjara News.

Lay Lay Mon, 40, from South Dagon Township in Rangoon worked for Teenager Magazine. She was arrested for participating in demonstrations in 2007 and sentenced to six years in prison.

Sein Win Maung, 54, from Khayam Township in Rangoon was arrested on in 2008 and sentenced to seven years in prison under Section 17/20 of the Printing Act. Sein Win Maung, along with his colleague the Myanmar Nation chief editor Thet Zin, was arrested after a Military Affairs Security Unit seized a CD recording of protests by Buddhist monks. Thet Zin had been released under an amnesty in September 2009.

Hla Soe, a member of the National League for Democracy from Amarapura Township in Mandalay Region was arrested for having illegal associations while he was compiling information regarding the “Depayin Massacre.”  He was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2003.

Mrat Tun, from Narinjara News was sentenced for five years in 2009 under Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act for crossing the border to Bangladesh and working for Narinjara, one of the exiled news agencies. 

San Lwin, also from Narinjara News, was convicted with the same sentence for the same charges as Mrat Tun.

The Mae Sot-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) (Burma) identified a total of 220 political prisoners among those released. Its Joint Secretary Bo Gyi told SEAPA that there are still approximately 1700 political prisoners incarcerated.

“We are disappointed,” Bo Kyi said, referring to the small number of released political prisoners.

The military-backed government announced on 11 Oct that President Thein Sein has offered amnesty for prisoners who are aged, disabled or in bad health, and who have served part of their sentence with good behavior, without mentioning terms such as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience. It was announced that the release of the promised total of 6359 was concluded on 12 October and there is no indication of another amnesty in the near future.

SEAPA and Mizzima listed the following as still imprisoned:

  1. Hla Hla Win, DVB reporter. Organization: DVB news. Prison term: 27 years (since 2009). Convicted under: Section 33(a) of Electronics Act, Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act, Section 17(1) of Unlawful Associations Act. Case: Arrested for interviewing monks.
  2. Min Han, poet. Sentence: 11 years (since 2008). Convicted under: Section 4 of Law No. 5/96, Section 505(b) of Penal Code. Case: Arrested for giving assistance to 88-Generation Student Group and All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) during 2007 September Saffron Revolution. He also led the Poets’ Union.
  3. Nay Phone Latt, aka Nay Myo Kyaw, blogger. Prison term: 12 and half years (first sentenced to 20 years which was later commuted by eight years) (since 2008). Convicted under: Section 505(b) of Penal Code, Section 32(b) and 36 of Video Law, Sections 33(a) and 38 of Electronics Act. Case: Arrested for posting online a caricature of then military leader Than Shwe.
  4. Ngwe Soe Lwin, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) reporter, recipient of Rory Peck Awards. Prison term: 13 years (since 2009). Convicted under: Section 33(a) of Electronics Act, Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act.
  5. Nyi Nyi Tun, aka Mee Doke, “Kandaryawaddy News Journal” editor-in-chief , poet. Prison term: 13 years (since 2010). Convicted under: Section 17(1) of Unlawful Associations Act, Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act, Section 505(b) of Penal Code and Section 6(1) of Wireless and Telegraph Act. Case: Arrested after the October 2009 bomb blasts in Rangoon.
  6. Sithu Zeya, DVB photojournalist. Prison term: 18 years (since 2010). Convicted under: Section 17(1) of Unlawful Associations Act, Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act. Case: Arrested for taking photographs at X2O water festival pavillion when three hand grenades exploded on April 15, 2010.
  7. Thant Zin Aung, photojournalist. Prison term: 10 years (since 2008). Convicted under: Sections 32(b) and 36 of Video Law, 33(a) and 38 of Electronics Act Case. Arrested for helping Cyclone Nargis victims.
  8. Win Maw, musician,  DVB reporter. Prison term: 17 years (since 2007). Convicted under: Section 505(b) of Penal Code (Instigating and disrupting public order and State security), Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act, Section 33(a) of Electronics Act. Case: Arrested for recording a song written in honour of Aung San Suu Kyi on her birthday, and also accused of having contact with exile news agency DVB.
  9. Zaw Thet Htwe, reporter. Prison term: 11 years (since 2008). Convicted under: Section 505(b) and 295(a) of Penal Code, Sections 33(a) and 38 of Electronics Act. Case: Arrested for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis.
  10. Zayar Oo, reporter. Prison term: 7 years (since 2009). Convicted under: Section 505(b) of Penal Code. Case: Arrested for distributing pamphlets with 88-Generation Students calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
  11. Zeya, aka Thargyi Zeya, writer. Prison term: 13 years (since 2010). Convicted under: Section 17(1) of Unlawful Associations Act, Section 13(1) of Immigration Emergency Provisions Act, Section 33(1) of Electronics Act. Case: Arrested in connection with the explosion of three hand grenades in front of X2O water festival pavillion at the Rangoon Water Festival on April 15, 2010.

About SEAPA

SEAPA (http://www.seapabkk.org/) is the only regional organization with the  specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ). SEAPA also has partners in Cambodia, East Timor, and exiled Burmese media, and undertakes projects and programs for press freedom throughout the region.

For inquiries, please contact us at: seapa [at] seapa [dot] org or call +662 243 5579.

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