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In Burma, arrested over a poem

June 1, 2006

Imagine getting arrested for writing a poem ostensibly about cock fights. Such is the luck of three youths in southern central Burma.

On March 29, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, seven students were arrested for writing and distributing a poem titled “The Might of the Fighting Peacock.” Weeks later, most were released.

But two of those students, who allegedly wrote and distributed the poem–plus a third youth who printed a t-shirt–are being tried under Burma’s “notorious political act 5J, [its] Printing acts, Act 17/1&2 for having contacts with illegal organisations and [for] crossing the border illegally.”

The original detainees, students at Pegu College, are Aung Aung Oo of the A20 Computing Business, and Zeya Aung of King Star teashop. The third, Sein Hlaing, is being detained and interrogated for printing a t-shirt with the image of a fist. The three are currently detained in Pegu Prison.

Other Burmese were arrested recently for taking pictures and for wearing inappropriate clothes.

Two journalists were arrested for taking pictures of the new administrative capital, where cameras are banned. And Burmese comedian Zargana (“Tweezers”) was rumored to have been detained in May for “wearing [a] worn-out longyi (sarong) [with a] brand new eingyi (shirt) to a market as a way of showing satirical defiance against the ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council.”

This all takes place in the context of an extension of the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was elected to lead Burma in 1990, though the election results were erased by the military junta. Aung San Suu Kyi has been in and out of house arrest (mostly in) since that time.

Reports have also cited an increase in the repression of Burma’s ethnic groups along its borders, and an increase in political arrests, which have been rampant in Burma at least since the 1990 election.

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