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Poet arrested, journal reprimanded, over poem allegedly insulting senior junta member

(Mizzima/IFEX) - On 22 January 2008, Burmese authorities arrested veteran poet Saw Wai over a Valentine's Day poem carried in that week's issue of the Rangoon-based Burmese weekly "Love Journal", according to sources in the literary community.

Sources said Saw Wai was arrested and is being interrogated because, when the initial letters of the lines of his poem, entitled "February Fourteen", are put together, the sentence "Power Crazy Than Shwe" is spelled in Burmese. Than Shwe is a senior general in the ruling military junta.

Myat Khaing, editor of the journal, said he innocently allowed the poem to be published as he believed it was a romantic poem exalting Valentine's Day. Myat Khaing has had to file a petition to authorities as a result of having published the poem.

Sources said officials at the Burmese Press Scrutiny and Registration Board warned Myat Khaing not to repeat his mistake in the future, and threatened that severe action would be taken if he did so.

In July 2007, the "Myanmar Times", a semi-official English-language weekly journal in Burma, ran an advertisement by a bogus tour agency carrying the hidden words, "Killer Than Shwe" (see IFEX alert of 3 August 2007). The Press Scrutiny and Registration Board, which strictly censors all publications in Burma, overlooked the embedded message and allowed the paper to carry the ad. The Danish artist group Surrend later claimed responsibility for the ad, which appeared to be an invitation to Scandinavian tourists to visit Burma, but instead mocked the Burmese head of state.

Meanwhile, an online advertisement for shampoo, carrying hidden words critical of Senior General Than Shwe, is being circulated among Internet users.

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