Tuesday, 02 October 2007 20:00 Mara Moustafine Editorial Dept - Free Speech

Sydney PEN is gravely concerned for the well-being of leading Burmese comedian and poet Maung Thura popularly known as Zargana) who was arrested on 25 September as part of the violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists by the military government.

Sydney PEN, an affiliate of International PEN, is an association of writers which defends the right to freedom of expression in Australia and the world at large and campaigns on behalf of writers who are silenced by persecution, exile or imprisonment.

According to PEN's information, Maung Thura (popularly known as 'Zargana') was arrested for his support of the monks demonstrating in the capital, Rangoon. He remains in detention and there are mounting concerns for his well-being and safety. 


Sydney PEN seeks immediate assurances of Zargana's well-being, and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Zargana and all those currently detained in Myanmar in violation of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Zargana is Burma’s leading comedian, popular for his political satires. He was first arrested in October 1988 after making fun of the government, but was freed six months later.

However, on 19 May 1990 he impersonated General Saw Maung, the former head of the military government, to a crowd of thousands at the Yankin Teachers’ Training College Stadium in Rangoon. He was arrested shortly afterwards, and sentenced to five years in Rangoon’s Insein Prison, where he was held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell. There he began to write poetry; one of his prison poems has been published in the International PEN anthology This Prison Where I Live.

After his release in March 1994, Zargana was banned from performing in public, but courageously continued to make tapes and videos which were strictly censored by the authorities. In May 1996, after speaking out against censorship to a foreign journalist, he was banned from performing his work altogether, and stripped of his freedom to write and publish.

PEN has long been concerned about freedom of expression in Myanmar. Since the 1988 crackdown on the National League for Democracy (NLD) in which thousands were killed and thousands more arrested, the numbers of detained writers known to PEN has remained largely unchanged.

PEN is currently campaigning for the release of nine writers serving sentences ranging from seven to twenty-one years imprisonment in Myanmar. All are detained for their peaceful opposition activities. They include Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the NLD and writer, who has spent the large part of the past eighteen years in detention.

To download PEN's latest caselist please click here:

Click here for more details about PEN's work for Aung San Suu Kyi: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/index.php?pid=33&aid=3&query=burma

Mara Moustafine
President, Sydney PEN

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