BURMA: Leading comedian working for cyclone victims arrested


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-126-2008
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Judicial system, Rule of law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that Zarganar, a famous comedian in Burma who has been leading some of the relief efforts after Cyclone Nargis, had his house searched and was taken away last night, June 4.


According to information from a number of sources, around seven police led by the Rangoon Western District police chief together with the local council chairman came to comedian Zarganar’s house in Rangoon just before 8pm on June 4 and went inside saying that they just wanted to search it. After they recovered a computer, some VCDs of the cyclone damage as well as the new Rambo movie (the story is situated in Burma) and the wedding video of the junta leader’s daughter (see UA-150-2007) they said that they would also take Zarganar with them “for a short while”, meaning “around a couple of days”. They also took around USD 1000 of money for the cyclone relief effort.

Zarganar has been working constantly on cyclone relief since May 7, and has given interviews to overseas-based radio stations and other media about his work and the needs of the people. He had also ridiculed state media reports about the cyclone aftermath. According to his sister, he had used all his own money for the cyclone victims and had sold his and his wife’s mobile phones (which are expensive in Burma) to fund the work. He had organised over 400 volunteers to work in some 42 villages that had been neglected since the cyclone struck. The district official who led the group to the house said that Zarganar being taken away does not have anything to do with his relief work but his family does not accept this.


There have been many efforts by the authorities in Burma to block not only international relief from reaching cyclone victims but also the domestic donors who stepped in to assist. See for instance AHRC-UAC-117-2008 on the detaining of car drivers and vehicles. Local journalists trying to cover the story have also been held for short periods and threatened, but Zarganar is the first leader of local relief efforts to be detained.

Zarganar was also detained last September for his role in the monk-led protests but was later released. See UP-126-2007 and UP-125-2007.

For more information on human rights issues after Cyclone Nargis please visit: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/cyclonenargis/

Please write to the persons listed below to call for Zarganar to be released immediately. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Prominent comedian Zarganar detained apparently over cyclone relief work

I am writing to voice my concern over the detaining of prominent comedian Zarganar, a.k.a. Ko Thura, apparently in connection with his role in Cyclone Nargis relief efforts during the last month, and to call for his immediate release.

According to the information I have received, a group of around nine officials led by the police chief of the Yangon Western District Police, including the Ward Peace and Development Council chairman, military intelligence, five Special Branch police and another officer came to Zarganar’s house on Shankone Road, Sanchaung Township, Yangon, just before 8pm and said that they needed to search the house. After searching, they said that Zarganar would have to go with them for around two days. They also removed items from the house including a computer board, VCDs, two books with accounts and around USD 1000. They took Zarganar to a car waiting at the intersection at the end of the street around 10pm and left the house around 10:45pm.

It is unclear to me under what law or on what grounds Zarganar has been taken. According to those persons present no information was given about why he was been removed except that the district official denied that it was anything to do with the relief work. However, this seems unlikely given that Zarganar has been involved in this work constantly since a few days after the cyclone struck on May 2, and also given that he has made interviews with foreign media outlets about his work.

Under any circumstances, the statement that he would be held for two days makes no sense under domestic law because both the Penal Code under section 61and new constitution, which was ratified on May 29, under article 10(b), lay down that a person cannot be held for more than 24 hours without the express permission of a law court. This is on top of the various other breaches of criminal procedure apparent in this case.

I call for the immediate release of Zarganar from illegal custody and return of his possessions. I also take this opportunity to call for the allowing of free and open relief to victims of Cyclone Nargis and no further harassment of persons involved in working on getting help to cyclone victims, for an investigation into the alleged deaths in custody of at least 40 prisoners in Insein Jail at the time that the cyclone struck and shortly thereafter and for the release from detention of all persons illegally imprisoned and wrongly tried in connection with last September’s protests.

Yours sincerely,


1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

6. U Aung Bwa
Director-General, ASEAN-Myanmar
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tel: +951 229 214; 221 191
Fax: +951 222 950; 221 719
E-mail: dgaseanmofa@myanmar.com.mm

7. Mr. Patrick Vial
Head of Delegation
No. 2 (C) – 5 Dr. Ba Han Lane
Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, 8th Mile
Mayangone Township
Tel.: +951 662 613 / 664 524
Fax: +951 650 117
E-mail: yangon.yan@icrc.org

8. Surin Pitsuwan
Secretary General
ASEAN Secretariat
70A, Jalan Sisingamangaraja
Jakarta 12110
Fax: +62 21 7398234/ 7243504
Email: termsak@aseansec.org, lina@aseansec.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-126-2008
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Judicial system, Rule of law,