Wed 10 Oct 2007
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
For decades, Burmese comedians have charmed their audiences and irritated the ruling generals with their topical satire and political wit.
During the current unrest, Burmese authorities struck back by arresting two of the country’s most well-known comedians. Currently, no one knows where they are being held.
The comedians’ family members are in anguish over the fate of their loved ones.
â€œI am worried about him. He is not in good healthy,” said Kyi Oo, the mother of Zarganar, who has been called Burma’s Charlie Chaplin.
“I warned him not to get too involved in the protests, but he refused me,” she told The Irrawaddy by phone from Rangoon. “He loves his country and his people.â€
Zarganar, 45, a dentist-turned-comedian, came to prominence in the 1980s by poking fun at the then socialist regime.
He was arrested after he prominently appeared in public, offering food and drink to monks during the early days of the Rangoon protests.
Zarganar was jailed twice for his social and political activism, first as a political dissident in 1988, then again in 1990 while helping his mother in her campaign for the general elections that year. He was freed in 1994.
The popular comedian-whose name means tweezers-received the Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett Award in 1991 after being nominated by the Fund for Free Expression, a committee of Human Rights Watch.
Another well-known comedian and a former movie star, 60-year-old Par Par Lay, the leader of the “Moustache Brothers” comedy troupe, was arrested in Mandalay by police on September 25 after he had gone to a monastery to give alms to monks.
His wife, Win Mar, told The Irrawaddy: â€œI’m very worried. I haven’t known where he is since he was arrested. I want to give some medicine and clothes to him.â€
Par Par Lay, along with his comedian colleague Lu Zaw, was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for a satirical performance they gave at an Independence Day party at the residence of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1994.
When the authorities released them in July 2001, they were blacklisted and forbidden to perform in public venues. However, they continued to perform for small groups of foreign tourists at their home in Mandalay.