Nay Phone Latt, owner of two international cafes and Burmese blog author, has been sentenced to 20.5 years for covering the Saffron Revolution, crackdowns by the Burmese government against pro-democracy groups.
From August to mid-October 2007, pro-democracy groups in Burma, along with Burmese monks took to the streets in the hopes of exposing the military junta and restoring democracy to Burma. The government responded with unprecedented violence and enforced media silence, including cutting off the internet and shutting down internet cafes. When the conflict was over, 3,000 students and activists were dead.
Latt, often blogged about the repression he and other pro-democracy youth experienced in Burma hoping to raise awareness about the struggle for democracy there. Like others, he thought that blogging was a powerful way to raise awareness about oppression and also to connect to a sympathetic activist audience. He kept track of democratic movements, repression, and changes to policy as well as daily life. He also reported on the September crackdowns.
In January, Latt was arrested for having “contraband” video, opening the possibility for the government to search his businesses, home, and internet usage and eventually detain him pending trial.The video in question was likely taken at one of the many government sponsored violent repressions during the Saffron Revolution as Latt used his blog to post images and video of police brutality against student and youth organizers of the pro-democracy movement. In fact, his blog has been credited as being a key source of information about the government violence in Burma during what was essentially a media lockdown.
The Burmese government arrested Latt in July of this year. He was detained until trial in notorious Insein Prison, known for its violent treatment of prisoners. He was also denied medical attention and food regularly according to reports. Latt has a chronic eye condition requiring treatment; despite this fact, no physicians have been allowed to see him since he entered prison in July. The final court decision means he will now spend another 20 years there.
Latt’s lawyer was also arrested for criticizing the court preceedings that led to Latt’s excessive sentence. 27 other student protestors were given 65 years each for their involvement in the Saffron Uprising last week.