‘Penis poet’ trial postponed after lawyer requests male judge hear the case

Maung Saungkha, who was arrested earlier this month for writing a poem about having a tattoo of the president on his penis, had his second day in court this morning in Shwepyithar Township.

Not much happened, however, as his lawyer, Robert San Aung, requested a male judge instead of the woman presiding over the case.

His argument was that it would be culturally inappropriate to talk about the subject – or possibly show evidence that his client didn’t have the tattoo – in front of the woman.

“The judge is female. So we asked to have a male judge as it is not proper in Myanmar Culture for a lady to listen to this issue,” he said later.

His request was granted and the next court date will be on December 4.

In a brief interview before his hearing, Saungkha, who was dressed like his supporters with t-shirts reading “Poetry is Our Right,” said that Myanmar has a certain level of freedom of expression.

“That expression is allowed until it affects the government,” he said.

Saungkha, a 23-year-old poet and activist, uploaded the supposedly offensive verses to his Facebook page last month. It reached the eyes of someone in the president’s office, and a case was filed against him in the township court using an outdated electronic transactions law.

Police arrested him while he was attending another trial for student activists.

English versions of his original poem have used the word “penis,” but a more formal translation by Ko Ko Thet sides with “manhood.”

On my manhood rests a tattooed
portrait of Mr. President
My beloved found that out after
we wed
She was utterly gutted,

He has become one of several people sued for defamation over a Facebook update in the past month.

Photo of Maung Saungkha outside a holding cell on November 27 / Coconuts Yangon

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