STATEMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE CENTER OF INTERNATIONAL PEN ON FREE EXPRESSION IN MYANMAR

FREE THE POETS OF MYANMAR

Since Day One of the military junta in Myanmar, authorities have arrested writers Than Myint Aung, Maung Thar Cho, Htin Lin Oo and Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi together with writers-activists Mya Aye and Pyone Cho.

On March 3, 2021, Myanmar poets K Zar Win and Myint Myint Zin were killed during a peaceful protest march in Monywa.

We have also received reports that poet Maung Yu Py was arrested, severely beaten and charged under Article 505 in Myeik, Tannintharyi Division on March 9. Another poet, Nayi, who works as a lawyer, is said to have been seized and detained shortly after saying he would handle Maung Yu Py’s case in court.

Twelve other poets and writers all across the country are now languishing in prison: Yaw Na Than (Mandalay), Sue Khet Yint (Yangon), Nay Win (Meikhtilar), Arr Swe (Monywa), Pay Thoe (Yangon), Phyu Su (Yangon), Khine (Yangon), Moe Thu Eain (Yangon), Eain My Nyein (Yangon), Nga Nee Moe (Yangon), Sis Naing (Yangon) and Te (Yangon).

The poets’ detention and murder speak volumes on the clear intention of the junta to silence opposition and dissent. There is nothing in the coup to even remotely suggest a return to, or an advancement of, democracy. If anything, it promotes the suppression of the people’s will by mocking the rule of law.

To quote Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee: “This is a power grab, taking Myanmar back by decades […] Suppressing the voices of writers and dissidents takes Myanmar deeper into an abyss.”

As of this writing, the total number of arrests has reached 2,345, deaths 232. Fifty-two people, out of those killed, were students.

Myanmar is now in the middle of their Spring Revolution against a junta that aims to crush their freedom of expression. As Myanmar poet Maung Yu Py once wrote, “To provide human rights and survival capacity for their tribes, they have to give their lives.”

In solidarity with the writers of Myanmar, the Philippine Center of International PEN opposes in the strongest terms their detention and killing. We continue to uphold freedom of expression, and stand against any attempt to violate this universal right.

Launching of “Be Ye Steadfast. Poems of Carlomar Arcangel Daoana, Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta, and Allan Justo Pastrana”

This collection is the eighth volume in Vagabond Press’ Asia Pacific Poetry Series. It is edited and introduced by Dinah Roma, with cover art by Mark Andy Garcia. Vagabond, based in Tokyo and Sydney, is an independent literary publishing press which promotes new works by writers in Asia and the Pacific.

Daoana is the prize-winning author of four collections of poetry: “Loose Tongue, Poems: 2001-2013” (UST Publishing, 2014), “Clairvoyance” (UST Publishing, 2011), “The Fashionista’s Book of Enlightenment” (DBW, 2009) and “Marginal Bliss” (University of the Philippines Press, 2002). He was awarded the Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism by the Ateneo Art Awards in 2014. He writes a fortnight column in the Arts and Culture section of The Philippine Star.

Katigbak-Lacuesta is the prize-winning author of three books of poetry: “The Proxy Eros” (Anvil Publishing, 2008), “Burning Houses” (UST Publishing, 2013), and “Tropicalia: Poems and Translations” (in collaboration with Frances Cannon, Vagabond Press, 2016). She is the editor and co-creator of “Metro Serye,” a fold-out zine featuring new writing and graphic art. She also co-edited a flash fiction anthology called “Fast Food Fiction Delivery: short short stories to go,” in 2014.

Pastrana has his first book of poems entitled “Body Haul” (UST Publishing, 2011), which won the 2013 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award.

Of these three poets, Roma writes in the introduction, “I am certain that in reading the enthralling poems of Carlomar, Mookie, and Allan—whether those readers be in Asia, Europe, North America, or elsewhere—they would find in them a rich evocation of the country and nation that is the Philippines. It is a geography and geographical construct that is as complex and slippery as the many distances traversed in the poems of places by Carlomar, of the intimate sphere that is all at once vulnerable and bracing as that of Mookie’s, and the exacting intellectual ruminations of Allan.”

Hosted by the Philippine Center of International PEN.