BURMA

Burmese comedian Zarganar paying a high price for straight talk

Three weeks after his arrest on June 4, a Burmese comedian known as "Zarganar" remains in an interrogation centre in Rangoon. The junta has as yet given any explanation as to why they arrested Zarganar, but it is assumed that his critical attitude towards the government in the aftermath of the Nargis cyclone has something to do with it. Read more...

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Three weeks after his arrest on June 4, a Burmese comedian known as "Zarganar" remains in an interrogation centre in Rangoon. The junta has as yet given any explanation as to why they arrested Zarganar, but it is assumed that his critical attitude towards the government in the aftermath of the Nargis cyclone has something to do with it.

The Burmese comedian, film director and political activist has already been detained three times in the past 20 years. He is an avid and outspoken activist, and his comedy often contains references to the ruling regime. Last year he brought attention to himself by handing out food to the protesting monks in September's clashes.

This time, he was arrested after carrying out a humanitarian aid project that brought together some 400 writers, artists and activists to deliver aid to victims of the cyclone that struck almost two months ago. When asked by the media about his reasons, the comedian spoke openly. He told them that the government wasn't doing anything to help. It has now been three weeks since the 47-year-old was arrested, when ten policemen turned up at his home without warning at 10 pm.

Images of destruction after the cyclone

 

This video is an extract from a DVD about the cyclone on sale in Rangoon, which was brought back by an aid worker there. Warning: You might find some images shocking.

Zarganar on form

Posted by TZA on November 14, 2006. The footage was filmed before Zarganar was banned from performing in Burma in September 2006.

"I was blindfolded with my hands tied, put in a small room and hit by many people"

U Aung Din is a long-time friend of Zarganar. He was arrested by the Burmese government in 1988 for student activism and spent four years in jail. He fled the country in 1995 but remains in contact with Zarganar. He now works for the US Campaign for Burma.

They just came round, picked him up and threw him in prison. It's how they do it. But it wasn't a surprise. They don't like him because he does a very noble job. The people love him very much, and they hate the government.

He's a very courageous person. He's been tortured every time he's been in prison — this is the fourth time. I myself have spent four months in a military interrogation centre. I was blindfolded with my hands tied, put in a small room and hit by many people. Sometimes I became the football on a soccer field. And I couldn't do anything because I was tied up. Then there was being hung upside down from a ceiling. Water torture, too. And the standing up for many hours. Sometimes we would be told to kneel down on the floor, but the floor was made of pieces of glass. Then they'd tell you to crawl and shout and beat you. After all this you'd be left in an empty room with no food for seven days. It was the routine. And when one group's released, another comes in.

Me, I'm scared to go back. That's why I fled. But I believe he'll never leave. He wants to, but he never would. This is someone who could change the country."