Monday, November 17, 2008

Blogger jailed 20 years

YANGON: Myanmar's best-known blogger who was arrested after massive anti-junta protests last year has been jailed for 20 years.

Nay Phone Latt, 28, a former member of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was among more than a dozen anti-government activists who were jailed this week.

Nay Phone Latt was sentenced on Monday along with poet Saw Wai, who is accused of penning a secret anti-junta message in one of his works.

Four NLD members were also given unspecified jail terms on Monday while a court in Yangon's notorious Insein Prison sentenced 14 members of well-known pro-democracy group the 88 Generation Students to 65 years imprisonment each.

'Nay Phone Latt was once an NLD youth member, but he left the party when he was arrested. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment,' NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP yesterday.

'The authorities are punishing the activists by investigating the cases hurriedly. There was not enough time for a defence with lawyers.'

Saw Wai was sentenced to two years in prison for defaming the state in a poem that referred to junta leader Than Shwe, Mr Nyan Win said.

Myanmar's military censors launched an investigation in January after a poem by Saw Wai appeared in a newspaper. The work read like a love letter, but the first character in each word spelt 'Senior General Than Shwe is power crazy'.

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders and Myanmar group the Burma Media Association condemned the severity of the blogger's punishment.

'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,' they said in a joint statement.

'Saw Wai, for his part, is being made to pay for his impertinence and courage as a committed poet.'

Nay Phone Latt's blog was written in the Myanmar language and in the style of a novel. He used it as a forum to discuss the difficulties of daily life, such as the regular power outages and the rising cost of living.

The blog was banned by Myanmar's military regime, and Nay Phone Latt was arrested in January during a round-up of activists linked to the massive anti-junta protests in September last year.

About 200 NLD members and activists were arrested during and after the protests, when up to 100,000 people spilled onto Yangon's streets.


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