Popular comedians back inside prison
Par Par Lay, also known as U Pa Pa Lay, was arrested on 25 September 2007 in the city of Mandalay during the crackdown by security forces on anti-government protestors. He was arrested after leading a group of opposition party members in offering donations to Buddhist monks. It is not known where he is now detained.
Par Par Lay is a popular comedian in Myanmar. This is not the first time that he has been imprisoned.
On 4 January 1996, the 48th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from the UK, a group of entertainers including Par Par Lay performed for a celebration at the home of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). In their routine, Par Par Lay had joked that government cooperatives were thieves, and sang a comic song about Myanmar’s ruling Generals.
Following the performance, he and other entertainers from the group, known as the Moustache Brothers, were arrested. Most were released after a month but Par Par Lay, another comedian and two NLD members were charged with causing or intending "to spread false news, knowing beforehand that it is untrue". When NLD party members and their lawyers tried to attend the trial, they found the courtroom closed. They later learned that a judge and a prosecuting lawyer had gone to Mandalay prison to conduct the trial there. The defendants were not allowed any legal representation.
On 18 March 1996, Par Par Lay was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. For part of his sentence, he was held in a labour camp, where he was forced to work with iron bars across his legs.
Thousands of Amnesty International supporters around the world, including famous fellow comedians, called for the release of Par Par Lay and his friends.
Par Par Lay was released on 13 July 2001, though he was kept under close surveillance thereafter by Military Intelligence. It is not known where he is now being held.
Zargana, also known as Thu Ra, is a trained dental surgeon and a famous comedian in Myanmar. He has produced and acted in a number of films, having been banned from performing in public several years ago.
Zargana was arrested on 25 September 2007 in the city of Yangon. He is reported to have been organizing celebrities from the entertainment industry in Myanmar in support of the demonstrations. It is not known where he is detained.
Zargana was first arrested on 2 October 1988, after taking part in the largely peaceful mass demonstrations that took place in Yangon in August 1988. These demonstrations called for an end to military control of Myanmar's government and for the establishment of a multi-party
democratic system under a civilian administration. Zargana reportedly appeared at several demonstrations satirizing the interim government of Dr Maung Maung, claiming the military controlled it behind the scenes. He was released on 21 April 1989.
His next arrest came in May 1990 after he reportedly impersonated a government official at an event attended by thousands of people. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, and was released on 25 March 1994.