Why is the ‘penis poet’ Maung Saungkha still in jail?

Maung Saungkha, the author of an edgy poem about having a tattoo of a certain somebody on a certain bodypart, is mysteriously still in jail despite widespread pardons and amnesties in April and the conclusion of other cases involving the same exact charges.

In an interview by phone from the courthouse in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Township, where he is being tried, he expressed frustration at the lack of action and said his trial was expected to continue for another two weeks.

“There are a lot of people who were sued by section 66d,” he said, referring to the online defamation charge that has been used to pursue online defamatiom cases. “But the maximum punishment for everyone was six months, no more. Now I have been facing my trial for over six months since November.”

“The government is not in control on this issue,” he added.

It is unclear why Saungkha was not released along with hundreds of other political prisoners last month. On its face his case was less sensitive and not as high-profile.

To recap: not long before the election last year he posted a poem on Facebook describing having a tattoo of an unnamed president on his penis. Hmuu Zaw, the spokesman at the time for then-President Thein Sein’s office, saw it and complained on his own Facebook page.

Police showed up at his house shortly afterwards and he was eventually arrested for online defamation as part of the Telecommunications Act.

Reached today, Hmuu Zaw, who stayed on with the NLD in a similar capacity at the new president’s office, said to ask “law experts” and the court where Saungkha is being tried.

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