Censorship, in any form, is an evil beast. Not only does it steal a writer of their words, it deprives a reader of the writer. Sayar Lay Ko Tin is one of those writers who Myanmar has the sad legacy of silencing more than most countries. And by that I mean not just the decades of poetry, stories and articles that have come from him, but the man himself.
Twice a prisoner, under two successive dictators, in 1974 under Ne Win for 6 years and again for four years under Than Shwe in the early 90’s, both stints for possession and distribution of censored materials, Sayar Lay Ko Tin has emerged from those dark times as one of the outstanding writers and editors in Myanmar.
Beginning with his poetry in the early 80’s, he became editor of Yananthit magazine, one of the most respected literary journals in Myanmar, an editor of the Seikku Cho Cho annual short story anthology and selector for the annual Shwe Amyutay literary awards.
On Thursday, he celebrated the launch of his new book ‘The Last Days of Politicians’, published by Malikha Books with a foreword by 1988 revolution leader, Ko Ko Gyi. A series of vignettes, the book follows the final moments of the leading politicians and student leaders imprisoned by the military junta in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Certainly unpublishable until direct censorship was abolished in Myanmar in January 2013, this book takes the political prisoner memoir genre in another direction by focussing on those who have passed away and are unable to tell their own story,
During the launch, an 8 second standing silence was held in honour of those in the book – and others – who died in Myanmar jails, such as 1988 student activist Aung Kyaw Moe. A more fitting remembrance to their lives and last days couldn’t be found than in the words of Sayar Lay Ko Tin.