Ma Khine Cho said authorities took Zaw Thet Htwe into custody late June 15 while he visited his sick mother in the central town of Minbu. They also searched his parents’ home and confiscated Zaw Thet Htwe’s computer, some CDs, and various documents.
“I’m extremely worried, wondering what will happen,” Ma Khine Cho said. “My husband hadn’t done anything wrong. If he’s asked about the relief work, he’ll be able to answer well. He also said not to worry, because he had done these things legally.”
"I was extremely surprised. But my husband hadn’t done anything wrong.”
Ma Khine Cho
The authorities said only that Zaw Thet Htwe’s aid work on behalf of
survivors of the May 2-3 cyclone wasn’t the reason for his detention,
but they didn’t elaborate, Ma Khine Cho said.
“Since his mother had a stroke, we went on a two-day trip to Minbu,
leaving behind our daughter, who’s only a little over a year old. On
the day that we were to return, he was taken away and sent back to
Rangoon, so I was extremely surprised. But my husband hadn’t done
Four or five special branch agents came to the house with authorities
from the ward, she said. “They searched in a good manner. They talked
to my parents politely. They said not to worry…”
“They took away the phone that he had been using recently for business and
stuff like that. They did say that they would inspect it, and if they
didn’t find anything, they would return it. They took the phone, also
the computer at our house, and some documents. They took four or five
CDs—just that much,” she said. “I asked where he [would be held] and they said currently they were not able to tell me. That was all they said.”
Private aid effort
Zaw Thet Htwe had been working with Burmese comedian Zargana, who was detained June 4, and other Burmese media personalities, artists, and celebrities. Both Zaw Thet Htwe and Zargana have criticized the junta in the past.
Zaw Thet Htwe this month said in an interview that he and a large group of entertainers including Zargana were training young people in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta to provide emotional support to cyclone victims.
Zargana was detained after he openly criticized the military regime’s
slow response in aiding cyclone survivors. The cyclone killed at least
78,000 people while another 56,000 are listed as missing.
Zaw Thet Htwe formerly worked as editor in chief of a popular sports
newspaper, First Eleven Journal. He was detained in 2003 on charges of
treason, for which he was convicted with eight other people on Nov. 28,
2003, by a special tribunal inside the notorious In Sein Prison. But on May 12, 2004, the Supreme Court of Burma reduced the sentences
of all nine defendants, and Zaw Thet Htwe was freed in 2005.
According to an appeal on Zaw Thet Htwe’s behalf by Reporters Without
Borders, his arrest was apparently linked to publication of an article
speculating about the spending of an international grant to promote
soccer in Burma. It also reported on a fine imposed by organizers of an
Asian soccer tournament on a Burmese team for failing to take part in the competition.
After Zargana was detained, authorities began issuing daily warnings
against people who send “video footage of relief work to foreign news
RSF, Burmese media plea
In a statement, Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media
Association on Monday condemned the arrest “for assisting in the
distribution of food and clothes in areas hit by Cyclone Nargis. While
editor of the sports magazine First Eleven Journal in 2003, he was
arrested, tortured, and sentenced to death, and then pardoned by the Supreme Court.”