Imprisoned satire performers face new convictions
Who are Peacock Generation?
Peacock Generation are a satirical poetry troupe who perform Thangyat, a traditional performance similar to slam poetry. Seven members of Peacock Generation were arrested in April and May 2019 after a performance in which they wore military uniforms and criticised the military.
Thangyat is a century-old Myanmar traditional art form fusing poetry, comedy, and music. It is usually performed during Myanmar’s New Year Water Festival in April and during other festive occasions. Public performances of Thangyat were banned in 1989 by the military and were allowed again in 2013. In March 2019, ahead of this year’s Water Festival celebrations, authorities in Yangon required Thangyat lyrics to be submitted to a government panel for approval.
On 30 October November 2019, five members of Peacock Generation were each sentenced to one year in prison for a satirical poetry performance in Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. They were sentenced under a law that bans the circulation of statements with the intent to cause officers or soldiers in the Myanmar Armed Forces to mutiny or disregard their duties.
On 18 November, six of them were sentenced to one year in prison. One member was acquitted of the charges and released.
In the latest convictions, four members of the group were found guilty of “online defamation” and sentenced to six months in prison. They faced these charges for posting photos and videos online, as well as livestreaming their performances on Facebook. All seven members of the group face a further charge of “online defamation”, which carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.
The Myanmar authorities continue to arrest and imprison activists and human rights defenders simply for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. Amnesty International is concerned about a number of laws in Myanmar that arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of expression.
Earlier this year, the military arrested filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi for making a series of Facebook posts criticising the military’s role in politics. Despite his health concerns – he underwent a major surgery for liver cancer early this year – his bail request was denied and he received a one-year prison sentence.