“The story of Maung Yu Py, is the story of all those who are detained, harassed and persecuted for exposing injustices and defending freedom of expression through poetry. The PEN community stands in solidarity with Maung Yu Py and all poets who are silenced in Myanmar and across the world. Their voice must be heard.” Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
Every year on 21 March, PEN International observes World Poetry Day, celebrating one of the most relished forms of cultural and linguistic expression and identity across regions, and honouring those poets worldwide who face threats, intimidation and violence for speaking up and holding governments to account.
PEN International and PEN Centres around the world have long campaigned on behalf of poets at risk and for the protection and promotion of minority languages. In 2011 PEN’s Translation and Linguistic Rights Committee developed the Girona Manifesto on Linguistic Rights – a ten point document designed to be translated and disseminated widely as a tool to defend linguistic diversity around the world.
Today, on World Poetry Day 2022, PEN International features the case of poet Maung Yu Py, detained by the Burmese authorities for exercising his right to freedom of expression through poetry.
Please take action on behalf of Maung Yu Py.
Maung Yu Py
Poet Maung Yu Py was arrested on 9 March 2021 while attending an anti-coup protest in his hometown of Myeik, southern Myanmar. On 8 June 2021, Maung Yu Py was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment under Sections 145 & 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, which effectively criminalises public criticism of the coup or military junta and is frequently used by the regime to punish those who publicly oppose the dictatorship.
Considered to be one of Myanmar’s most well-known poets, Maung Yu Py published his first collection of poetry, The Bird that was Killed when the Sky Capsized (2000), at the age of 20, and has since published several poetry collections, including There is a New Map for that Little Island Town Too (2007) and With the Big Television Turned On (2009). His poetry has also been featured by Poetry International and was included in Bones Will Crow: Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets (2011), an anthology edited by Ko Ko Thett and James Byrne. In 2015, Maung Yu Py participated in University of Iowa’s prestigious International Writing Program as a visiting fellow. Two of Maung Yu Py’s poems can also be found in Picking off new shoots will not stop the spring (2022), the first Burmese literary work to be published since the military’s violent coup d’état and featured by PEN International.
PEN International considers Maung Yu Py’s detention a breach of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
This is what you can do:
Send a message to Maung Yu Py expressing your concern about his situation and showing solidarity. Here are some sample messages you can adapt:
- Dear Maung Yu Py, with your poetry you have given us the example and strength to speak up against abuses of power. I look forward to the day when you will be free again, when you will be able to shape the world with your words again, and inspire us- again- to imagine and call for a better future. (Signed by: name, date, country).
- Dear Maung Yu Py, as we celebrate World Poetry Day, I am thinking of you and the injustice you have been subjected to. You have used your poetry to address disparities and speak up for a world where human rights are a reality for all. I celebrate you and all those who speak truth to power. May we see you again on the streets of Myanmar. (Signed by: name, date, country).
- Dear Maung Yu Py, your fellow poet Liu Xiaobo once said that “To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.” I join PEN international in calling for your release and the protection of freedom of expression in Myanmar. Stay strong! (Signed by: name, date, country).
Please send messages to:
Room 3, ward 4,
Home Affairs ministry,
Myeik, Tanintharyi Division,