Performance Artists in Mandalay Face Charges
By Man Thar Lay 30 May 2012
Seven Burmese performance artists will face charges in a Mandalay court on Thursday after they allegedly broke an obscure law last week by performing in public with five foreigners who were subsequently deported.
Officials from Mandalay’s Police Station No. 2 charged the seven artists on Tuesday with violating Section 11 of the 1964 Library, Museum and Exhibition Monitoring Act for performing near the north side of Mandalay’s moat on May 24.
If found guilty, they could face prison sentences of up to three years, a fine of 2,000 kyat (US $2.40), or both.
Five foreign artists—four Malaysians and one German—were expelled from the country on May 25 for taking part in the performance. The seven Burmese artists are Su Myint Thein, Maung Ni Oo, Moe Sat, Aung Myat Htay, Lwin Oo Maung, Ma Ei and Ma Nge Lay.
The artists were stopped by the authorities while they were staging their first art-exchange performance of “Feeling,” which they had previously performed on Sultan Street in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for five days.
The artists said that their performance was artistic rather than political in nature, but happened to coincide with protests by local residents demanding full access to electricity.
One of the artists, Su Myint Thein, told The Irrawaddy that they were arrested about 45 minutes into their performance. They were taken to a police station and later released on bail.
“It was just art, not a protest,” he said. “We perform in public spaces such as markets, side roads and near traffic lights because it is meaningful. Our performance is a work of art. I don’t think we did anything wrong.”
Another artist, Maung Ni Oo, said they were released only after signing a pledge not to repeat their offense. But on Tuesday, the township police said they were under orders from Naypyidaw to press charges.
“I had never even heard of this law before,” said Maung Ni Oo. “Even the police second lieutenant who charged us said he had to spend the whole night going through the law books to find it so he could press charges.”