Military to Sue Comedy Performance Troupe

By Htet Naing Zaw 9 May 2019

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, has filed a lawsuit against a group of comedians for their performance deemed to be defamatory to the military, an officer of the Naypyitaw Command has confirmed to The Irrawaddy.

The military’s Lt-Col Myint Oo has filed a complaint with the Zabuthiri Township Court against five comedians of the Zwe anyeint troupe for their performance at a rally in support of constitutional amendment in the administrative capital of Naypyitaw in March.

Anyeint is a form of traditional Myanmar entertainment that combines dance with instrumental music, song, and comedy routines.

The court has tasked the police with investigating the case.

“Their performance, in which a comedian dressed in military uniform and put his leg on another comedian dressed as a civilian, results in a public misunderstanding of the Tatmadaw, and it also tarnishes the image of the Tatmadaw. That’s why we filed the complaint,” Col. Thein Zaw of the Naypyitaw Command told The Irrawaddy.

The military has not filed a particular charge against him, he added. The court will determine the charge.

Police lieutenant Kyaw Zin Win of No. 1 Police Station in Zabuthiri Township told The Irrawaddy that he is currently in Yangon to investigate comedians’ case.

“We will investigate and report the findings. [The court] will decide which charge to file depending on our report,” said the police officer.

However, he has not yet interrogated the comedians because they are not in Yangon.

“I am in Maymyo (also known as Pyin Oo Lwin) for a [film] shooting. I won’t be back in Yangon in the next few days. One of the comedians is currently at a meditation center and one has gone back to his hometown of Myeik. The police said they wanted to meet us all at once so the interrogation will be convenient. I heard that a letter [from the court] was sent to me, but I haven’t read it yet,” comedian Pan Thee told The Irrawaddy.

He said that it might have been a misunderstanding.

“Perhaps, they filed a complaint because of the photo. It is usual for comedians to poke fun at each other in order to draw laughter from the audience. If they watch the entire joke they might understand that it was not what we meant,” said Pan Thee.

Brig-Gen Maung Maung, deputy commander of the Naypyitaw Command who leads the military-appointed lawmakers at the Union Parliament, told the reporters after Wednesday’s parliamentary session that their performance suggests the military bullies and threatens others.

Military spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said at a press conference in Naypyitaw on April 30 that the military’s patience was running out.

The lawsuit comes months after the military field defamation charges against filmmaker U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, former military captain U Nay Myo Zin, five members of the Peacock Generation thangyat troupe as well as The Irrawaddy and Radio Free Asia news agencies.

“The Tatmadaw seems to be becoming more sensitive as it now even files complaints about thangyat and other forms of art. This shows any remark critical of the military can result in prosecution and prison,” said Maung Saung Kha, executive director of Athan, a civil society organization that promotes freedom of expression.