A young blogger and a writer who disguised an attack on Burma's dictator in the form of a love poem have received heavy jail sentences, in the latest blow to opponents of the country's military dictatorship.
Nay Myo Kyaw, a 28-year-old who blogged under the name Nay Phone Latt, was sentenced to 20 years and six months in jail by a court in Rangoon.
The poet, Saw Wai, received a two-year sentence for an eight-line Valentine’s Day verse published in a popular magazine. Even the lawyer representing the two men, Aung Thein, has been jailed for four months for “contempt of court” during his defense.
They join more than 2,000 other political prisoners in Burma’s jails, half of whom have been incarcerated since last September’s “Saffron Revolution”, when tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and political activists took to the streets in a failed uprising against the junta.
The advocacy organization, Reporters Without Borders, said: “The authorities have imposed an extraordinarily severe punishment on Nay Phone Latt just for using the Internet. This shocking sentence is meant to terrify those who go online in an attempt to elude the dictatorship’s ubiquitous control of news and information, and we call for his immediate release. Saw Wai, for his part, is being made to pay for his impertinence and courage as a committed poet.”
Saw Wai’s poem, entitled "14th February," was ostensibly a Valentine’s Day verse published last January in a popular weekly magazine. “You have to be in love truly, madly, deeply and then you can call it real love,” it read. “Millions of people who know how to love, please clap your hands of gilded gold and laugh out loud.”
But the first word of each line spelled out a pithier message about the leader of the country’s military government: “Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe." Saw Wai was arrested the next day and charged with harming “public tranquility."