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Myanmar: Latt's arrest and blogger opposition to the new constitution

It's been a month now since Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt was arrested by police in Yangon and a week since his family was allowed to visit him for the first time following his transfer to infamous Insein Prison, known for its conditions and for the many political prisoners held there.


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Response to Latt's arrest was swift and far-reaching, with posts from BoingBoing to Italy to Holland and Australia and in just as many languages: Spanish, Swedish, Bahasa, German and, assuredly, English; news came out in the days following Latt's arrest that other bloggers had gone into hiding, although further details, if any, have yet to surface.

Latt's readers were quick to speak out in his support, and a blog has even been set up in his name:

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Give Nay Phone Latt Back,” writes mahorgani at the Burmese Bloggers Without Borders blog:

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Now , wicked hands are coming to bloggers. Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, who just disappeared from his way with no clues. He dedicated his time in writings and community works. He simply love his country like everyone else. He might trying his bits of task to figure out Democracy.

Where he is now? Nobody knows except those who took him. What an unfair and terrible situation happening in Burma. Big brothers are everywhere. Nightmare is in everybody. Uncertainty is in every corner.

More from the Burma and Freedom blogger, photos of Latt hanging out included, in that person's post, “My Friend in Burma Got Arrested Just for Web Blogging”:

The Government officials have denied to comment anything about his arrest. His parents got to learn that he had been arrested only after the group of soldiers raided their house and his Grandfather's house. His parents and grandparents heard the officer on the phone (apparently to Nay Phone Latt who was in detention) saying; “Ok. You lied to us. You will pay for this. I will slap you and beat you up when I come back there!!!”.

Where he has been detained is not known, and his parents are worried about his health and safety.

Earlier this month it came out that Latt is formally being charged under article 32 (b) of the Video Act, which brings with it up to six months and/or a fine of approximately 85USD; according to one blogger at Burmese Bloggers Without Borders, Latt's crime was possession of a recording of a Thee Lay Thee performance, described by the BBWoB blogger as “[something] like comedy show.. making fun of SPDC and bad situations in burma…the video is the banned video in Burma…if anyone is found possessing any censored materials, they can be jailed or fined or both.”

More recently, a report from Irrawaddy.org this week suggests that Burma's internet infrastructure itself seems to be having problems:

The reason for the frequent disruption of service is not known, but users in the former Burmese capital say that the problem has become more noticeable since the beginning of this month.

“It takes a long time to send attached files, such as photos and pictures. It is not as fast as before,” said a woman working at an Internet café in Sanchaung Township.

“Sometimes the connection fails completely while users are online and we have to change to a new proxy number. It happens all the time now,” she added.

Possibly tired of waiting for pages to load, at least one blogger is calling for a return to radio, to reach those who seldom go online as it is:

Military Junta has effectively blocked the work of most famous Burmese bloggers (blogger.com). Arrest of Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt, Burmese poet Ko Saw Way and recent arrest of Myanmar Nation’s journalists were systematic attack to Free Press and Internet Blogs by terror and fear.

At the same time Junta has declared referendum to be started by May,2008. This is also well planned and calculated attack to pro democracy movement. All of us out here understand that “this referendum” is going to be a sham. However Burmese people are at gun point, and it will be very difficult for them not to follow Junta’s orders as their utmost priority will be to survive the every single harsh day.

For them, Rambo is easy to understand than referendum. Constitution of Burma, which is so vital for future Burma may be something difficult to understand. ( I am well aware of existence of awakened Burmese in rural area) Majority of Burmese are farmers and from rural areas with so much difficulty for day to day survival.

Only way this blogger could think of is that the information relating referendum and constitution to be spread among the Burmese people through radios. The recent news of Burmese from Korea donated radios to Burmese people at border is a very significant move for freedom of Burma.

Hopes for the results from the constitutional referendum this May don't seem to be too high; amid skepticism of just how “inclusive” the process will be as overseen by UN Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, BBWoB just this weekend launched a campaign calling for its readers to “say NO”:

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