The following article was transmitted by International PEN’s Rapid Action Network on 15 May 2008
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is gravely concerned for the well-being of leading Burmese musician Win Maw, who was arrested on 27 November 2007 and is said to be seriously ill as a result of torture in detention.
International PEN seeks immediate assurances of Win Maw’s well being and guarantees that he is receiving all necessary medical treatment. PEN calls for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Crackdown on pro-democracy activists
According to PEN’s information, popular Burmese musician Win Maw was arrested on 27 November 2007 and is held in Insein Prison, Yangon, under article 5 (j) of the penal code with threatening national security. News of his arrest has become known to PEN only in recent days. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in prison. His arrest is thought to be part of the wider crackdown on pro-democracy activists.
Win Maw is lead guitarist in the music group Shwe Thansin, which was one of the top bands in Burma in the 1990’s. He was previously imprisoned from 1997-2003 for writing songs in support of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). It is thought that his current detention may also be linked to his song writing, although confirmation is needed.
It was reported on 7 May 2008 that Win Maw had been transferred to the prison hospital after a series of interrogation sessions carried out by officials of the Military Security Affairs. He is said to have suffered suspected collapsed lungs as a result of ‘water torture’, and to have now contracted pneumonia. His family have been denied access to him for over three weeks, and there are grave concerns for his welfare.
A major crackdown in Burma has been underway since early September 2007, following demonstrations led by monks and pro-democracy activists which began on 19 August 2007. Writers and journalists are among the scores of people to have been detained. All of those arrested in the crackdown in September 2007 are now thought to have been freed, but many remain under heavy restriction and the authorities are continuing to crackdown on any expressions of dissent.
Appeals to Myanmar (Burma) Embassies
While the situation in Burma is still critical, letters sent to the country may not be received or taken as a priority. It is therefore recommended that appeals be sent to the diplomatic representative of Myanmar (Burma) in your own country:
• protesting the detention of leading musician Win Maw, and expressing grave concern for his well-being;
• demanding his immediate and unconditional release and that of all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Letters to the press
PEN members may consider writing letters to their national newspapers expressing alarm at events in Burma, and highlighting Win Maw’s case to illustrate the many years of repression in the country.