The National Book Critics Circle stands deeply committed to the values of free expression, democratic engagement and rule of law that are essential for both civil society and book culture to flourish. Our bylaws pledge that the organization will advocate on behalf of “all those who seek to assemble free from fear and harm” and “to speak out against oppression.” As literature transcends national boundaries, so does our duty to champion the wellbeing of authors and critics abroad as well as at home. In fidelity to these ideals, the NBCC most vehemently condemns the ongoing repression in Burma and stands firmly with PEN Myanmar, the Myanmar Poets’ Union and the Burmese people in their defense of fundamental rights.
Writers have long played a central role in the Burmese struggle for freedom including the 8888 Uprising of 1998 and the liberalization that preceded the 2021 military coup. Now Burma’s literary community faces exile or imprisonment and state-sanctioned violence. At least three prominent poets—Khet Thi, Kyi Lin Aye and K Za Win—have been murdered extrajudicially by the ruling junta. Many of the nation’s foremost writers, such as Maung Thar Cho and Htin Lin Oo, remain incarcerated. The recent execution of best-selling author, Kyaw Min Yu, along with three other pro-democracy activists, marked a horrific low point in the current regime’s systemic and brutal suppression of Burma’s distinctive literary and artistic culture. The NBCC commits itself to highlighting these atrocities and to keeping the world’s focus upon the people of Burma and the courageous Burmese authors who continue to endure great sacrifices in their fight for liberty.
The current assault on Burma’s civil society is a menace to writers everywhere. The NBCC offers its strongest support to the Burmese literary community, both in that nation and in the diaspora, and urges writers across the globe to voice their solidarity. We cannot afford to look the other way while our fellow writers, poets and critics face such perilous threats.