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Burma 30 November 2006

Intelligence agents and paramilitaries monitor writer’s 91st birthday celebration
Rangoon high court rejects appeal against 19-year sentences for poems

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association voiced outrage today at the military government’s use of intimidation to disrupt the celebration of leading writer and journalist Ludu Daw Amar’s 91st birthday today in the central city of Mandalay.

“The treatment reserved for this 91-year-old woman writer is akin to the way 77-year-old U Win Tin, another famous journalist, has been held for the past 17 years in Insein prison,” the two organisations said. “Burma’s generals are obsessed with controlling dissident writers and have no consideration for people in general and intellectuals in particular.”

The two organisations added: “We also condemn the Rangoon high court’s refusal to hear the appeal presented by the lawyer of two men who were unfairly sentenced to 19 years in prison for publishing a collection of poems.”

The celebration of Ludu Daw Amar’s birthday was monitored by the authorities and paramilitary groups. The military government forced Taung Lay Lone monastery to cancellation its celebration, which in recent years has been drawing hundreds of writers and artists from all over the country. Ludu Daw Amar who co-founded the Ludu Daily News, has often used these occasions to condemn political and social oppression and the lack of press freedom.

This year, many government opponents and journalists cancelled plans to go to Mandalay for fear of reprisals. Military intelligence agents and members of the pro-government UDSA group kept both the monastery and Ludu Daw Amar’s home under surveillance. Today, police were deployed around her home and filmed guests as they arrived.

The appeals rejected by the Rangoon high court were filed on behalf of Aung Than, a member of the National League for Democracy and Zeya Aung, a Pegu university student, who were given 19-year prison sentences in June for publishing a collection of political poems, crossing the Thai border illegally and cooperating with “illegal organisations.”

Their lawyer told DVB radio that the court rejected the appeal the same day that he submitted it. He said he intended to submit further, special appeals to the same court but had no illusions about their chances of success. “At least we will be able to show how our rights have been annihilated,” he said. “This is now my sole concern. Losing or winning will depend on the good sense of the judges.”

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