Satire performers sentenced to further prison time
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.
Seven members of the Peacock Generation – Paing Phyo Min, Paing Ye Thu, Kay Khine Tun, Su Yadanar Myint, Zayar Lwin, Zaw Lin Htut, and Nyein Chan Soe – were arrested in April and May 2019 after they performed Thangyat, a traditional performance art akin to slam poetry. They wore military uniforms and criticised the military.
Most recently, on 17 February 2020, three members of the group – Paing Phyo Min, Kay Khine Tun, and Su Yadanar Myint – were convicted of “online defamation” by Yangon’s Botahtaung Township Court and sentenced to six months in prison, under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Act, for posting photos and videos and livestreaming performances around Myanmar’s Water Festival in April 2019. The four other members were acquitted. Section 66(d) carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.
This is the group’s fourth conviction in recent months:
On 30 October 2019, five members of the group – Paing Phyo Min, Paing Ye Thu, Zayar Lwin, Zaw Lin Htut, and Kay Khine Tun – were each sentenced to one year in prison by the Mayangon Township Court, Yangon, after being convicted of violating Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, which prohibits the circulation of statements and reports with the intent to cause officers or soldiers in the Myanmar Armed Forces “to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in their duties” and carries up to two years in prison.
On 18 November 2019, six members of the group were convicted and sentenced to one year in prison under Section 505(a), this time at the Botahtaung Township Court. Nyein Chan Soe was acquitted of the charge. On 11 December 2019, four members of the group – Paing Phyo Min, Paing Ye Thu, Zayar Lwin, and Su Yadanar Myint – were given additional six-month jail terms after being found guilty of “online defamation”, under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Act at the Mayangon Township Court.
Members of the Peacock Generation, including Paing Phyo Min, Paing Ye Thu, and Zayar Lwin, are facing further charges in a number of other townships outside Yangon, where they also performed Thangyat.
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. The Myanmar authorities must ensure respect for, and protection of, the right to freedom of expression, in particular as the country prepares to head to the polls in elections in late 2020.