Burmas response to blogging: imprison and be damned

"…a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"

Lewis Carroll might have revelled in the bizarre, through the looking glass world that is modern-day Burma.

After all, how many other topsy-turvy places would see a capital city relocated overnight, an opposition leader win an election that is promptly cancelled, and a supposedly subversive poet put behind bars to totally disprove that, as his coded message-in-a-Valentine’s-Day poem had it,  “Senior General Than Shwe is power crazy"?

Or, come to that, how many countries feel it necessary to jail a blogger (Nay Phone Latt) for over 20 years for posting a cartoon about the country’s leader on his blog site?

Ok, on that last point – a few might go so far, especially if the same blogger had inconvenienced the government with blogged accounts of a government crackdown against mass demonstrations, as with 2007’s “Saffron Revolution” – but not many.  And, overall, this latest reaction is so clearly draconian that you almost wonder if Burma’s generals have totally given up caring what the world thinks of them.

As ever with governments that seem to have lost the plot (to use the technical, geo-political terminology!), the Burmese government appears unable to cope with mockery.

To cap it all, Nay Phone Latt’s crushingly heavy sentence (his mother thought he’d “only” get 10 or 12 years) is just one of several sentences imposed on Burmese “dissidents” this week. To quote Amnesty’s Burma expert Benjamin Zawacki, the Burmese government has revealed “its true intentions by sentencing these dissidents for nothing more than peacefully expressing their views during last year’s demonstrations.”

Over 2,100 political prisoners are now held in Burma’s festering jails and things have got worse and worse since last year’s abortive protests.

In fact you might almost say that Rangoon’s generals are making a mockery of the world and its human rights concerns about the people of Burma.

Is that a smile I see playing on the lips of General Than Shwe? A Cheshire cat grin? Maybe not.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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