Myanmar: Writer trialled for denouncing the military

25 March 2020
Saw Wai posing for a picture
Image: Burmese poet Saw Wai at Introductory event of Freedom Filmfest Myanmar 2020-01-10 Yangon Book Plaza / Wikimedia Commons


20 January 2020: The trial against writer, poet and performance artist Saw Wai (real name Saw Win) and two other activists Nay Myo Zin and U Kyi Myint started in the Kawthaung Township Court on charges of violation of Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, reported The Irrawaddy.

The charges allegedly relate to a rally which took place on 3 April 2019 during which the three activists spoke about the Myanmar military and its role in politics. They further called for constitutional reforms.

Section 505(a) of the Myanmar Penal Code prohibits the circulation of statements and reports with “intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty” and is a subject to a penalty of up to two years imprisonment.

The case was initiated on 17 October 2019, when a lieutenant colonel filed charges against Saw Wai, along with two other activists – one of whom, Nay Myo Zin, is already serving a one-year prison sentence.

PEN International encourages people to send appeals calling on the Myanmar authorities to drop the charges laid against Saw Wai immediately and to repeal or amend all laws that impose unlawful restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in Myanmar, in line with international human rights standards.

The use of Section 505(a) is an alarming trend in Myanmar. Over the past four years, the military has filed 47 lawsuits against 96 people. This includes members of the Myanmar thangyat troupe Daung Doh Myo Sat (Peacock Generation), who have been imprisoned in Insein Prison for a performance in which they donned military dress.

You can join the call for the release of all artists currently imprisoned and a repeal of all legislation which arbitrarily detains those who express themselves artistically.

Sign the petition here.

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