Myanmar/Burma: Musican Win Maw sentenced to six years in prison

14 November 2008
Musician Win Maw received a sentence of six years imprisonment by a closed court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison on 11 November 2008, relatives reported

The 46-year-old guitarist Ko Win Maw was convicted for “sending false news abroad”, even though it wasn’t false, and there wasn’t any evidence against him to correspond with the elements of the charge, wrote UPI

He was arrested a year ago, on 27 November 2007, as he sat with two friends in a Rangoon teashop. Special Branch police charged him for having upset the public tranquility because he sent news and photos to the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma radio station during the protests against spiraling price rises in August and September 2007. According to a family member of Win Maw he was tortured with water in an interrogation centre, and received medical treatment in prison after the torture.

Seven years in prison
It is not illegal according to Burmese law for a person in Burma to have contact with overseas media, so Win Maw was not doing anything wrong by sending the news on to the radio station in Norway. Only by accusing him of sending false news with intent to harm the public were they able to put charges on him.

Win Maw was imprisoned previously for seven years under emergency regulations from 1996 to 2002 for performing as lead guitarist in the rock group Shwe Thansin, one of Burma’s top bands of the 1990s, sentenced to seven years imprisonment for writing songs in support of Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1997. He was released from Taunggoo prison in November 2002, but his music remained banned and still today can only be listened to through exiled broadcasters and online soundfile networks.

65 years imprisonment each
On 11 and 12 November 2008, over 20 Burmese dissidents, primarily students and monks, were given prison sentences of 65 years imprisonment each, and further 35 students as well as social activists and artists received year-long prison sentences for “illegal association”, “unlawful assembly” and “sedition”, reported several exiled Burmese news providers, among these The Irrawaddy.

Most of these dissidents had been arrested during the demonstrations and protests that took place in 2007.

Poet: Two years
The poet Saw Wai was sentenced to two years on the charge of “upsetting public tranquility” after writing a concealed anti-dictator message into a Valentine’s Day poem. It wasn’t very well concealed, wrote Awzar Thi in a report on UPI But well enough concealed that the censors missed it and the magazine went to print before he was found out.

Blogger: 20 years
A young Burmese blogger who provided information for the outside world on the brutal regime crackdown on the September 2007 uprising was sentenced to 20 years and six months imprisonment.

Defense Lawyers: Four to six months
Three defense lawyers have also been sentenced to prison terms of between four and six months for contempt of court after complaining of unfair treatment. For instance, the Burmese lawyer Aung Thein was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for submitting a letter from clients stating that they had no faith in the judicial process.

“The many harsh penalties have attracted some fleeting interest globally, but like most news stories this one too will dissipate within a few days. After the world has gone on to other things, Burma’s protestors and their defenders will still be in jail,” wrote Awzar Thi on the UPI website.

Awzar Thi is the pen name of a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission with over 15 years of experience as an advocate of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand and Burma.

The human rights organisation Article 19 reported in November 2008 that over the last year, the number of political prisoners in Burma has leapt from 1,200 in 2007 to over 2,100 today.




Click for more information about Win Maw
Win Maw

Click to read more about music censorship in Burma
Myanmar / Burma


Google News – continously updated:

Search: ‘Win Maw’

UPI – 13 November 2008:

‘Frantic week behind Burma’s court doors’

The Irrawaddy – 11 November 2008:

’40 Burmese Dissidents Given Prison Terms of up to 65 Years’

Asian Human Rights Commission, – 9 September 2008:

‘Man arrested and charged for having contact with overseas radio’ – Urgent Appeal Case and Case Details (Win Maw)

About Win Maw

By Aung Zaw

Win Maw launched his music career in 1984 when he was a student at Rangoon University. But he soon found himself neglecting his studies. Instead he devoted his time to refining his craft as the lead guitarist for the amateur rock band, Computer Control.

Eventually, Win Maw decided to leave school altogether to dedicate all his creative energies to the band, which included his only brother, Win Zaw, on bass. Although they never achieved great fame and fortune, Computer Control was talented enough to earn a nightly spot on the state-run Myanmar TV in 1994. As the use of English language on Burmese television is strongly discouraged, Computer Control soon became known as Shwe Tan Zin, or Golden Melody. But the forced adoption of the new name elicited no complaints from the band, as the television spot afforded them the opportunity to reach a wider audience and keep their rock-and-roll dreams alive.

But the pair’s musical dreams turned into nightmares in November 1996 when Burma’s Military Intelligence Services (MIS) arrested the two brothers and Win Tin, the band’s drummer. They were charged with singing anti-regime songs to remakes of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, and Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Their music was subsequently banned from the airwaves, and in January 1997 the trio was sentenced to seven years of hard labor in prison.

Later that year, a group of musicians petitioned the SPDC for their release but their pleas were ignored. Win Tin served five years of his sentence at Tharawaddy Prison and was released on 16 August 2004. (…)

Excerpt from the book ‘Shoot the Singer!’ which was published in 2004.



Click to read a chapter about Burma in the book 'Shoot the Singer!'

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