Myanmar/Burma: Poet arrested for posting ‘defamatory’ poem
According to PEN Myanmar, poet Maung Saung Kha was arrested on 5 November 2015 for defaming the president in a poem he posted on Facebook in early October 2015 in which a line said that he had a portrait of the president tattooed on his penis.
The 23-year-old poet published the poem, ‘Image’, on 8 October 2015 and told news magazine The Irrawaddy that he had gone into hiding that same day as he was informed the poem came to the attention of authorities. He later went on the run for two weeks before authorities caught up with him.
Maung Saung Kha, who is also the director of the Poetry Lover Organisation, a group that promotes peace through literature, said his poem wasn’t directed at any particular person, but was generally about oppressive authorities.
“It could be about Saddam Hussein, or Assad. Why do they think it’s U Thein Sein? There is not a single mention of Myanmar in my poem,” he said. “The government doesn’t understand poetry. They are afraid of poets as poetry carries public voices.”
Charges were brought to Maung Saung Kha under Article 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act, and is the fourth such arrest that has been made since October 2015 under the same law for publishing satirical or degrading posts online.
The controversial law broadly stipulates that anyone who commits extortion, coercion, wrongful restraint, defamation, or disturbance, causes undue influence, or threatens people by using any telecommunications network can be convicted to a maximum three-year prison sentence, levied a fine, or both.
Photo from Maung Saung Kha’s Facebook page
» PEN – 12 November 2015:
Myanmar: Poet’s Arrest Signals Deteriorating Tolerance for Online Satire & Free Expression
» Daily Mail – 25 October 2015:
Was it something he wrote?
» International Business Times – 23 October 2015:
Myanmar: Writer on run from police after posting poem about his tattooed penis on Facebook
» The Irrawaddy – 21 October 2015:
Bard on the Run, Dodging Defamation over Risqué Rhyme