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Myanmar: Two poets among dozens of unarmed protestors killed by military junta

Friday 5 March 2021 - 10:07am

Myint Myint Zin (L) and K Za Win (R)

Update - 12 March 2021

PEN International has received unconfirmed information that Nayi (aka Nari or Nayee) has been arrested by the junta forces in Myeik city. Nayi is a poet, artist, and legal practicioner. Nayi's poetry and artwork can be found on his public Facebook page, link.

Nayi was due to represent fellow poet Maung Yu Py in court before he too was arrested.

PEN International continues to call for the release of all those detained and is seeking further information on the circumstances surrounding their detention.

Update - 10 March 2021

PEN International has received unconfirmed information that Maung Yu Py now faces multiple charges under Myanmar's Penal Code, and could be sentenced to two years' imprisonment if convicted. His trial is scheduled to take place on 23 March 2020.

Update - 9 March 2021

PEN International has just received unconfirmed reports that several of the nine poets have now been sentenced to one month's imprisonment. They should never have been arrested and we call for the immediate quashing of their sentences.

Update - 9 March 2021

PEN International has further information that nine poets have now been arrested across the country:

- Yaw Na Than (arrested in Mandalay)

- Maung Yu Py (arrested in Myeik)

- Suu Khet Yint (arrested in Yangon)

- Nay Win (arrested in Meikhteela)

- Arr Sway (arrested in Monywa)

- Phyu Suu (arrested in Yangon)

- Eain Myu Nyein (arrested in Yangon)

- Pay Thoe (arrested in Yangon)

- Sitt Naing (arrested in Yangon)

- Ty (arrested in Yangon)

PEN International continues to call for the release of all those detained and is seeking further information on the circumstances surrounding their detention.

Update - 9 March 2021

PEN International has received reports that poet Maung Yu Py (aka Maung Yu Pye and Maung Yu Paing) was arrested on 9 March 2021. We call for his immediate release and are seeking further information surrounding the circumstances of his arrest.

Background (information courtesy of Ko Ko Thett):

Maung Yu Py was born in Myeik, a significant port town known historically as Mergui, on the coast of an island on the Andaman Sea in southern Myanmar. In the fourth grade, he was selected to represent the children of his region at Asia-Pacific Children’s Convention in Fukuoka, Japan. He earned a degree in law in 2006. Since his 2000 debut The Bird that was Killed when the Sky Capsized, he has published several collections of poems including, There is a New Map for that Little Island Town Too (2007) and With the Big Television Turned On (2009).

Still writing from Myeik, Maung Yu Py is widely recognized for his signature wry verses. The youngest poet to be featured in Bones will Crow: Fifteen Contemporary Burmese Poets (ARC, UK, 2012), Maung Yu Py was a visiting fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, US, in 2015.

PEN International is deeply saddened to learn of the brutal killing of two poets, Myint Myint Zin and K Za Win by the military junta in Myanmar on Wednesday 3 March 2021. The responsibility for their tragic deaths lies at the feet of the Myanmar military, which forcibly took power from the country’s democratically elected government on 1 February. PEN International condemns the use of lethal force against unarmed protestors and we repeat our calls for the immediate release of those detained and for the reinstatement of Myanmar’s democratically elected government.

In what the United Nations described as the bloodiest day since the military coup began, Myint Myint Zin and K Za Win were among dozens of unarmed protestors who were unlawfully killed by security forces during anti-coup demonstrations that took place across the country on 3 March 2021.

'The poets had words; the government had guns. The poets did what they could with the tools they had - write, express, speak. The government did the only thing it knew with the tool it had. Its forces fired. The poets' words and ideas will outlast the government - they always do. In The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie reminded us what a poet does - "to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep." The sacrifices of Daw Myint Myint Zin and K Za Win will not be in vain. We will not let the world go to sleep as we mourn; we will remember, and amplify their voices,' said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

Myint Myint Zin (also known as Kyi Lin Aye) was a teacher and poet who was well loved by her students. Her social media account is filled with posts by friends mourning her tragic death and pledging to continue her struggle for democracy in Myanmar. In what would be her final wish, she wrote her blood type and other details on her arm, and reportedly asked that her body would be donated to someone in need should she die in her fight for democracy.

K Za Win was a celebrated poet whose writing was first published in his school’s magazine at the age of 16. A member of Monywa Poet’s Union, he had previously spent over a year in jail for participating in a student rally that called for educational reforms in Myanmar. While he was imprisoned, he wrote a poem addressed to his father called 'A letter from a jail cell'.

Fellow poet Ko Ko Thett has provided an English translation of the poem. Both the translation and the original version can be found below:

K Za Win - A letter from a jail cell (English translation by Ko Ko Thett)


Dear Father,

the River, whose stomach

was cut open,

has declared war

on our tiny house on the bank, hasn’t she?

Right in front of the house

you must be looking out for someone

who will help you with

embankment poles

to straighten the river,

to fill her holes with


In the murky water,

which rises like a bamboo lance,

you must be gazing at

the sesame plantation —

laden with fruits

ready for harvest.

You must be thinking

a fistful of rice in your mouth

is about to be fingered out.

Maybe you will find solace

in religion, contemplating

our five foes.

Maybe you will

think of the void

a son’s labour can fill.

One son, two daughters and one son;

The eldest is a poet in prison,

the first daughter, a school teacher,

the second, a graduate in the kitchen,

the youngest, a student.

Your poet son,

is he even employable

as the dah you use to clear weed?

Forgive nothing, Father.


“Son, Pho Chan,

why do I hear noises behind you?”,

you asked on the phone.

“I am at the bus stop

to post a manuscript to a journal,” I lied.

From your liar son in the dock

to thugs who sweeten you

with the tips of their tongues,

“To our benefactor peasants …”,

because they want to have you from behind,

hate them all, Father.

Hate them all.

A thief is


A thug is

armed to the teeth.

If thieves are ungovernable,

if thugs are ungovernable,

what’s the point of government?

Whatever happens to the jungles

whatever happens to the mountains

whatever happens to the rivers

they don’t care.

They love the country

just the way they love to grate a coconut,

from inside out,

for coconut milk.

Plinth by plinth, to make their throne taller,

they will point their guns at the urna

on the Lord Buddha’s forehead.

Their class is that crass.

To cuss at that class

if your religion forbids you

allow me to lose that religion.

I will turn the air blue

on your behalf.

Maybe you don’t know yet.

your son was

set up

for demanding the so-called police

not to harm ordinary citizens.


your son, who is not a thief

nor a thug

will become employable,

good as your dah that clears weed.

For now, Father,

keep gazing at the plantation

you’d ploughed with your naked shoulders.

Keep singing

the anthem of

The Peasant Union.

Yours ever,

K Za Win

Cell 1, Section 10

Thayawaddy Prison

ကေဇဝင်း - ထောင်ထဲက စာ

ကမ်းနဖူးက အိမ်ကလေးကို
ရန်ရှာနေပြီမဟုတ်လား အဖေ။
အဖေ မျှော်နေမှာပဲ။
ပျစ်ခဲနေအောင် လဲကျနေမယ့်
ရေသွင်းနှမ်းခင်းတွေကို ငေးကြည့်ပြီး
ဝါးနေဆဲ ထမင်းလုတ်ကို
ကလော်အထုတ်ခံရသလို ဖြစ်နေမလား
ရန်သူမျိုးငါးပါးအကြောင်းကို ဆင်ခြင်ပြီး
အဖေမြတ်နိုးရာဘာသာတရားနဲ့ ဖြေတွေးနေမလား
လစ်ဟာနေတဲ့ တယောက်စာလုပ်အားကိုပဲ
တောင့်တများ တောင့်တနေမလား။
သား ၁၊ သမီး ၂၊ သား ၁ မှာ
သား ၁-က အချုပ်ကျ ကဗျာဆရာ
သမီး ၂-က
ကျောင်းဆရာမ နဲ့ ဘွဲ့ရထမင်းချက်
နောက်ထပ် သား ၁-က ကျောင်းသား
အဖေ့လက်ထဲက ကိုင်းခုတ်ဓားလောက်မှ
"အား"ဖြစ်စေပါရဲ့လား အဖေ။
မခွင့်လွှတ်ပါနဲ့ အဖေရေ
"သားရေ.. ဖိုးချမ်း
နောက်ကလူသံတွေ ဆူညံလှချေလား"
ဖုန်းထဲက အဖေ့မေးခွန်းကို
ကားမှတ်တိုင်မှာ ရောက်နေလို့" လို့
တရားရုံးထဲက အဖေ့သားက အစ
လျှာဖျားကလေးနဲ့ မြှူမြှူပြီးမှ
ကျောကို ချချသွားတဲ့
ခေတ်အဆက်ဆက်ရဲ့ ဓားပြကောင်တွေအဆုံး
အားလုံးကို မုန်းပစ်လိုက်ပါ အဖေ။
လက်နက် မပါဘဲ
ပြည်သူ့ဥစ္စာကို ခိုးဝှက်တော့ သူခိုး
ပြည်သူ့ဥစ္စာကို လုယက်တော့ ဓားပြ
သူခိုး အစိုးမရ
ဓားပြ အစိုးမရ-နဲ့
အဖေတို့မှာ ဘယ်မလဲ အစိုးရ။
တောတွေ ဘာဖြစ်ဖြစ်
တောင်တွေ ဘာဖြစ်ဖြစ်
မြစ်တွေ ဘာဖြစ်ဖြစ်
တိုင်းပြည်ကို ချစ်ပြပြီး
အဆီအနှစ်ကို ခိုးစုပ်တဲ့လူတန်းစားတွေ
သူတို့ပလ္လင်ကို တရစ်ချင်းမြှင့်ဖို့ဆို
ဗုဒ္ဓသင်းကျစ်မှာတောင် သေနတ်ပြောင်းနဲ့ထစ်မှတ်ပြီး
ညစ်ပတ်ခဲ့ကြ လူတန်းစားတွေ..
အဲဒီလူတန်းစားတွေကို ဆဲရေးဖို့
အဖေ့ဘာသာတရားက အဖေ့ကို ခွင့်မပြုရင်
အဲဒီဘာသာတရားကနေ ကျောခိုင်းပြီး
သား ဆဲရေးပါရစေ အဖေ။
လူကောင်းသူကောင်းတွေအပေါ် အကြမ်းမဖက်ဖို့
ရဲတပ်ဖွဲ့ဆိုတာကြီးကို တောင်းဆိုရင်းက
မတရားတဲ့ လံကြုတ်ပုဒ်မတွေနဲ့
ထောင်ထဲမှာ အချုပ်ကျနေလေရဲ့။
သူခိုးမဟုတ်တဲ့ အဖေ့သားက
ဓားပြမဟုတ်တဲ့ အဖေ့သားက
အားလည်း ဖြစ်ရပါစေမယ် အဖေ
ဓားလည်း ဖြစ်ရပါစေမယ် အဖေ။
အဖေ့ပခုံးနဲ့ ထွန်ယက်ထားပြီး
ရေလွှမ်းသွားတဲ့ ယာမြေပြင်တွေကို
ဆိုနေရစ်ပါဦး အဖေရေ..။ ။
သား - ကေဇဝင်း
ဆောင် ၁၀ / ခန်း ၁

For further information please contact Ross Holder, Asia Programme Coordinator at PEN International, Unit A, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, email: