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Worldwide Reading: Burma’s silenced poets

English PEN | 5 October 2011

JOIN THE WORLDWIDE READING"A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep." Salman Rushdie

English PEN ( and the Free Burma VJ campaign ( are organising a Worldwide Reading to pay tribute to Burma's Silenced Poets and we'd love for you all to get involved...

On 21 October 2011, we will be hosting public readings of poetry by imprisoned colleagues including Zarganar, Zaw Thet Htwe, Nay Phone Latt, U Zeya and Min Ko Naing, in order to raise and maintain awareness of their plight and of all those currently detained in Burma.

We already have events lined up in England, France and Thailand, but to help our message that these writers should be released immediately get through loud and clear we are hoping that PEN centres, other campaigning groups and individuals all around the world will take part by organising a similar event in your own country.

Please join us in giving a voice to our silenced colleagues and in paying tribute to their incredible courage in the face of continued persecution. Together we can send a strong message to the authorities in Burma that these writers have not and will not be forgotten.


To ensure that this initiative lives up to its name, we hope that other PEN centres around the world will be willing to organise a public reading. Readings can take place outside the Burmese Embassy in your country, if there is one, or in any other public place - the busier, the better!

Over the next few weeks, we will be putting together a pack of poems by our imprisoned Burmese colleagues, so if you are interested in organising an event as part of this Worldwide Reading and would like a copy of our poetry pack once it is complete, please email

English PEN will also be producing a short campaign video for You Tube using photos and footage of the protest we are holding in London. If you do organise your own event, please do record it if it at all possible as we are keen to incorporate photos and footage of events elsewhere round the world into the video. Please send photos and videos to


21 October 2011 marks 555 days since the arrest of U Zeya. Poet and journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma U Zeya, more famous under his pen name Thargyi Maung Zeya, was arrested at his home in Rangoon on 16 April 2010, shortly after his son Sithu Zeya had been arrested for taking photos of the water festival bombings in Rangoon. Sithu had reportedly confessed to his father being a DVB reporter after days of torture. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison on 4 February 2011.

WRITERS OF CONCERN TO PEN INTERNATIONALThere are currently 11 writers of concern to PEN in prison in Burma in violation of their right to free expression, whilst Burma ranks 174 of 178 on the 2010 Reporters Without Border Press Freedom Index.

Poets of concern to PEN

Zarganar - Poet, comedian and opposition activist serving a 35 year prison sentence for his role in a private relief effort following Cyclone Nargis.

Zaw Thet Htwe - Journalist and poet arrested alongside Zarganar for delivering aid and support to the victims of Cyclone Nargis - now serving a 19 year prison sentence.

Nay Phone Latt - Blogger and poet serving a twelve year prison sentence for critical writings published on his blog.

U Zeya - Poet and journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma sentenced to 13 years in prison on 4 February 2011, the same day that Burma's parliament nominated Thein Sein as the country's eighth President.

Min Ko Naing - Poet and political activist sentenced to sixty five years in prison for his role in the Saffron Revolution.

We will also be calling for the release of Aung Than, Zeya Aung, Maung Maung Oo and Sein Hlaing who were sentenced to between 7 and 19 yrs in prison for the publication of an 'anti-government' book of poems entitled Dawn Mann (The Fighting Spirit of the Peacock), and of songwriter Win Maw and editor Nyi Nyi Tun.

For more details of Burmese cases of concern, please see pp 50 - 52 of the PEN International caselist:

Read Burma’s silenced poets

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