Utne Blogs > Politics

Fighting Myanmar’s Junta with Humor

by Staff


Tags: Myanmar, Burma, comedians, Moustache Brothers, Par Par Lay, Lu Maw, Lu Zaw,

In Kyoto Journal Roy Hamric writes about the Moustache Brothers, a persecuted comedy group in Myanmar that’s described as a cross between Franz Kafka and Lenny Bruce. 

In 1996, the three brothers were invited to speak at a pro-democracy rally. Up on stage, Par Par Lay, the group’s leader, joked: “In the old days, we called a thief a thief. But now, we call them junta members....” The junta members didn’t laugh. Par Par and his fellow Moustache Brother Lu Zaw were sentenced to six years in prison, including stints of hard labor and solitary confinement. 

In 2001 Par Par and Lu Zaw were released, but banned from performing in public. So the Moustache Brothers started to stage nightly performances for tourists in their home, which is where Hamric caught them last summer. “Foreign travelers have kept our family and our art alive,” the third brother, Lu Maw, explained. “Tourists are our Trojan horse. Without them, we’d be up the river. We need tourists and journalists to see our show and talk about us. We’re living on the edge. Are you with me?” 

In September, Par Par was arrested again for giving alms to a monastery. After a month in prison, he was released

Brendan Mackie