Authorities in Myanmar detained the country’s best-known comedian on Tuesday as they continue to hunt down people they accuse of helping to incite nationwide protests against February’s military coup.
Comedian Zarganar was taken from his home in Yangon by police and soldiers who arrived aboard two army vehicles, another comedian, Ngepyawkyaw, said on his Facebook page. Zarganar, 60, is a scathing comedian who has been in and out of prison since he took an active part in a failed 1988 popular revolt against the military dictatorship that ruled the country at the time. He is also known for his social work, especially in organizing assistance to victims of the 2008 Cyclone Nargis.
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In the past week, the junta has issued arrest warrants for at least 60 people prominent in literature, film, theater arts, music and journalism on charges of allegedly disseminating information that undermines the country’s stability and the rule of law. The charges against the comedian, whose real name is Maung Thura, were not immediately clear.
Many protesters and grassroots activists are also detained every day, according to numerous reports on social media.
In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, security forces used stun grenades and fired shots Tuesday to break up a march by medical workers who have been demonstrating almost daily since the Feb. 1 military uprising that toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup halted the country’s gradual return to democracy after five decades of military rule.
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A participant who requested anonymity for his own safety told The Associated Press that doctors, nurses and medical students were attacked when they gathered around 05:00. Security forces used cars to ram into protesters on motorcycles, he added. The Irrawaddy news website reported the arrest of four doctors.
At least 570 protesters and bystanders, 47 of them minors, have been killed since the coup, according to the Political Prisoners Assistance Association, which monitors casualties and arrests. Another 2,728 people, including Suu Kyi, are in detention, it added.
Activists have begun organizing a boycott of the official celebration of Thingyan, the country’s traditional New Year, which takes place next week. The holiday is usually a time for celebration and family gatherings.