An internationally recognised Rangoon artist was arrested on Tuesday, after casting a written curse on the county’s government, police and military. He was later released.
San Zaw Htwe, a former political prisoner of 13 years, erected a sign outside his Rangoon home displaying a damning New Year sentiment aimed at authorities. “Wishing all sorts of bad luck towards the government, police and military and their thugs who heap trouble on the people,” the sign read in Burmese.
Police from Thauwana district in Rangoon confirmed to DVB that San Zaw Htwe spent close to 12 hours in custody, before police failed to bring a charge against him.
The artist said that his midnight arrest came after police did not get a response from Naypyidaw as to whether to press charges.
The curse was intended to single out those involved in the repression of student protestors, who have campaigned against the National Education Law since its passing last year.
“I wasn’t aiming the curse towards the government officials, soldiers and police officers who do protect people,” San Zaw Htwe said.
“I want to make everybody aware that there are, however, members of the police force, the government and the military who make life difficult for the people.
“So, I wrote that curse as an expression of mass-frustration. I want others to know that we should be able to talk about issues to do with the government, the police and the army openly and peacefully.”
In 1999, San Zaw Htwe was sentence for to serve 36 years in prison for his role as a student activist. He was released in a 2012 presidential amnesty.
In 2014 the former prisoner of conscience won first prize at the ARTRAKER international competition, held at the a/political gallery in London. San Zaw Htwe’s work consisted of collages crafted during his time in prison. The works were created using materials from the prison’s garbage. The artist traded food rations with guards, in exchange for scissors and glue.