Risky Jokes about Burma’s Dictators By Don North

Dandelion Salad

By Don North
Consortium News
October 19, 2007

Editor’s Note: In August, veteran war correspondent Don North was in Burma looking into growing signs of political unrest against the longtime military dictatorship in the country also known as Myanmar. One night, he attended an anti-government comedy routine by three comics known as the Moustache Brothers.

In the weeks that followed, as opposition to the military dictatorship spread, the comedians became targets of the government crackdown. Sources in Mandalay told North this week that one of the comics, Par Par Lay, was arrested Sept. 25 and family members still have no word of his fate.

The following story was written after North’s August trip to Mandalay:

On a makeshift stage in a slum dwelling on 39th Street in Mandalay, it is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 p.m. The Moustache Brothers, actually two brothers and a cousin, are checking the mikes and plugging in the electric generator.

In this neighborhood of jerry-built houses and open sewers, the electricity is out most of the time. Tonight, as they would do seven nights a week, the three comedians were preparing to regale the audience of a dozen foreign tourists with their “politically incorrect” humor.

“If the secret police come in the front, we will escape out the back,” joked Lu Maw, startling a German tourist in the front row. They hold aloft a sign in English proclaiming, “Moustache Brothers are under Surveillance.”

In Burma, the government may be a joke, but to laugh is to risk prison.


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