Myanmar arrested more writers, intellectuals in 2021 than any other country

Singapore, April 14 (EFE).- Myanmar, where the army carried out a coup in February 2021 that has plunged the country into chaos and poverty, arrested more writers and intellectuals that year than any other nation, according to a report by the PEN America organization published Thursday.

The report said Myanmar arrested 20 writers and intellectuals for the first time in 2021, the largest number per country that year, with the current total standing at 26 when adding those imprisoned from previous periods, ranking only behind China and Saudi Arabia.

These two countries made 85 and 29 arrests, respectively, the vast majority behind bars since before 2021, according to the report by the NGO, which works to defend freedom of expression.

In the 2020 PEN America ranking, Myanmar ranked ninth with 8 writers in prison, before the government of Aung San Suu Kyi was toppled, interrupting a decade of democratic transition in the country and resulting in a brutal campaign of repression against dissenting voices.

“We are particularly concerned to see Myanmar among the biggest jailers, in the face of the military junta’s attacks on freedom of expression and human rights,” PEN America’s Karin Deutsch Karlekar said in the statement.

According to the organization, of the 26, most are being held in prison without having been formally charged.

The Myanmar military junta has launched a massive arrest campaign since it took power on Feb. 1, 2021, and is holding 10,195 people under arrest in the category of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the rights organization Association for the Assistance for Political Prisoners.

The association, which works from exile, said that since the coup, at least 1,750 people have died due to police violence.

PEN, which in the report includes writers and intellectuals arrested for their work and imprisoned for at least 48 hours in 2021, showed China, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar account for more than half of the total arrests in 2021, at least 277 in 36 countries.

The number marks an increase from 2020, when 273 were counted, up from 238 in 2019. A third of those detained are serving sentences of at least 10 years in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many charges are related to threats to national security.

Behind Myanmar is Iran, in fourth place with a total of 21 writers arrested in 2021, while Turkey ranks fifth, with 18.

Asia-Pacific countries, especially China and Myanmar, together imprisoned about 50 percent of all writers counted in the 2021 report. EFE


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