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Burma poet held for secret insult

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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 16:36 GMT

Burma poet held for secret insult

By Steve Jackson
BBC News

The offending advert

The poem appeared in a Burmese celebrity gossip magazine

The Burmese authorities have arrested a well known poet, who published a love poem with a hidden message criticising the country’s military leader. Poet Saw Wai’s work – titled February the Fourteenth – was published in a Rangoon magazine, The Love Journal.

Taken together, the first words of each line read: “General Than Shwe is crazy with power.”

Dissidents in Burma have used similar techniques before to get their messages past government censors.

Authorities ‘sensitive’

At first sight it appeared to be a straightforward love poem looking ahead to Valentine’s Day, but eagle-eyed readers soon noticed what the Burmese government censors had missed.

It was not long before the authorities became aware of the poem and Saw Wai was arrested.

It is not clear what will happen to him now.

Burma’s military government is highly sensitive to any criticism, especially since the pro-democracy demonstrations last September which were put down by force.

The authorities closely monitor the media and dissidents have resorted to increasingly elaborate methods to get their messages across.

Last year an advertisement was placed in one of Burma’s main newspapers in the name of a Swedish travel company which contained the hidden message “Killer Than Shwe”.

The company did not really exist.

Myanmar Poet Arrested for Critical Poem
The Associated Press –

News vendors in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, also called Burma, said authorities had removed the magazine from their newsstands. …
Burmese poet arrested over cryptic verse attacking general Guardian Unlimited
Poet arrested in Myanmar for criticising junta leader Hindu
Valentine poem makes hidden swipe at Myanmar junta AFP
ABC OnlineTV3 News

all 67 news articles »


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

January 24, 2008 at 4:07 pm

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