Five Members of Performance Troupe Jailed for Satirizing Myanmar Military
By ZAW ZAW HTWE The Irrawaddy October 30, 2019
Members of the Peacock Generation Thangyat Troupe, a satirical performance group, are seen at the Mayangone Township Court in Yangon on Wednesday. / Aung Kyaw Htet / The Irrawaddy
YANGON, Myanmar – Five performers from the Daungdohmyoset (Peacock Generation) Thangyat Troupe were sentenced to one year in prison with labor by the Mayangone Township Court in Yangon on Wednesday for criticizing the military in a satirical performance.
Ko Zayar Lwin, Ko Paing Ye Thu, Ko Paing Phyo Min, Ma Kay Khine Tun and Ko Zaw Lin Htun, leaders of the Daungdohmyoset Thangyat Troupe, were charged in April under Section 505(a) of the country’s penal code.
Their thangyat (thangyat is a traditional Myanmar performing art) performances criticizing the military were intended to cause military officers to disregard or fail in their duties and could have caused a mutiny in the military, the court found.
On Wednesday, the court sentenced the five Thangyat performers to one year in prison with labor, as they were found guilty of seriously criticizing the military.
Lieutenant Colonel Than Htun Myint told the media on Wednesday that people should not be allowed to hide behind the banner of “human rights” while criticizing members of the military, who are fighting on the front lines and sacrificing their lives.
”We applied directly to the court in this case as we wanted justice. We accept the legal judgment,” he added.
In their April performance in front of a teashop in Mayangone Township, the thangyat performers wore mock military uniforms.
Four performers from the troupe have also been charged by the military under Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act for sharing posts on Facebook deemed defamatory to the military.
”Despite the sentence, we will never stop our activities [in support] of amending the Constitution and making the military leave political affairs,” Ko Zayar Lwin told the media at the entrance to the courthouse.
Joanne Mariner, Amnesty International’s research director for Southeast Asia, issued a statement on Wednesday calling on the Myanmar authorities to immediately quash the convictions and to drop all further charges against the Peacock Generation, as well as to release its members immediately.
”This is an appalling verdict. Punishing people for performing a piece of satire speaks volumes about the dire state of freedom of expression in Myanmar,” Mariner said.
Members of the Peacock Generation face the same charge in a number of other townships outside of Yangon where they have staged thangyat performances.