Famous Burmese comedian, Par Par Lay (pictured on the right holding the “Most Wanted” sign) was taken away from his Mandalay home two weeks ago and has not been heard from since. Along with the rest of his family, Par Par Lay (part of the “Moustache Brothers” troupe) has been regularly performing unauthorised shows in Mandalay for years. Many foreign visitors to the city have laughed at his group’s mad-cap antics. Of course, the humour has always had a dark side. Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw (on the left with the “KGB” sign) did nearly six years of hard time for a performance they gave back in 1996.
After their release, part of their security (and livelihood) was provided by the regular stream of tourists and others who passed dusty nights in Mandalay laughing away in the front room of their house.
By all reports, even after Par Par Lay’s arrest, the show goes on…
For more information on Par Par Lay do check out these good reports from Amnesty International, The Times and The Irrawaddy. Of course, many others (over 500 by one incomplete count) have also been locked up during the current crackdown. And hundreds of political prisoners have languished in detention for years. Some of the most prominent prisoners are discussed on this informative page from the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.
If you want to learn more, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) provides some outstanding resources. By their count, there were 1,158 political prisoners before 21 August 2007.
Even the best informed sources don’t really know how many there are now.