Hip-hop Star Banished to Remote Prison

Seven political detainees, including popular hip-hop star Zayar Thaw, were transported to prisons in remote areas around Burma on Wednesday, said sources in Rangoon.

Zayar Thaw, 27, who received a six-year prison sentence on November 20 for his participation in the last year’s anti-government uprising, was reportedly transferred on Wednesday from Insein Prison to Kawthaung Prison in Burma’s most southerly province.

He was arrested on March 12 and charged with contravening criminal code Section 24/1—possession of foreign currency—and section 6/88—belonging to an illegal organization.

Zayar Thaw, a founder member of popular Rangoon hip-hop band Acid in 2000, became involved in political activities in 2007 and established a dissident group known as “Generation Wave” during the nationwide uprising in September 2007.

Three of his colleagues from Generation Wave—Thiha Win Tin, Aung Zay Pho and Arkar Bo—were also transferred from Insein on Wednesday. Sources said Thiha Win Tin was moved to Nyaung-U Prison in Mandalay Division, Aung Zay Phyo was sent to Taungoo Prison in Pegu Division and Arkar Bo was transferred to Kyaukpyu Prison in Arakan State.

Also on Wednesday, a Buddhist monk convicted of anti-government activities, Sandar Thiri, from Damma Theingi Shwe Theim Monastery in Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township, was transferred from Insein to Sittwe Prison in Arakan State.

Sandar Thiri was given an 11-year sentence for his leading role in the monk-led demonstrations last year.

The other two political prisoners were Htun Htun Naing and Zayar Lin, who were transferred to Bhamo Prison in Kachin State and Sittwe Prison respectively.

Meanwhile, two members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Kyaw Ko Ko and Nyan Lin Aung, appeared at a court in Mayangone Township in Rangoon charged with anti-government activities.

According to Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma (AAPP), some 388 dissidents were detained following the nationwide uprising last year.

AAPP Secretary Tate Naing condemned the prison sentences. Speaking to The Irrawaddy, he said, “The long sentences handed down to these dissidents is a systematic plan [by the Burmese authorities] to cause divisions among families—between parents and children, wives and husbands—until they die.”

An estimated 215 pro-democracy supporters were imprisoned in November, said AAPP, one hundred and thirty-six of who have been sent to prisons in remote areas around Burma.

AAPP estimates that more than 2,164 political prisoners remain behind bars in Burma, including at least 180 women.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, more than 100 former leaders from 50 nations urged the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma by the end of this year and called for renewed efforts to secure the release of all political prisoners, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

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