Township court adds 1 year more to convicted Myanmar satire performers’ jail time


Six members of the Peacock Generation, a satirical poetry troupe in Myanmar, already sentenced to one year in prison last October 30, was handed down another one year in prison by a different court for the same crime on November 18.

On 30 October 2019, five members of the group were each sentenced to one year in prison by the Mayangon Township Court in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, after being convicted of violating Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s 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”.

Today’s convictions, delivered by Yangon’s Botahtaung Township Court, were also for charges under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code. Six members of the group were each sentenced to one year in prison. The seventh, Nyein Chan Soe, was acquitted of the charge.

Responding to the conviction and one-year prison sentence handed down to six members of the Peacock Generation, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southeast Asia said: “These new convictions against the Peacock Generation are signs of a relentless assault on freedom of expression in Myanmar. The military are going after these brave, talented satirists to make an example of them.

“It is ludicrous that these performers have yet to face even more charges and jail terms in the future. The authorities must end this madness and release them all immediately and without conditions. Their convictions should be quashed and all remaining charges against them dropped.

Seven members of the Peacock Generation – Kay Khine Tun, Zayar Lwin, Paing Pyo Min, Paing Ye Thu, Zaw Lin Htut, Su Yadanar Myint, and Nyein Chan Soe – were arrested in April and May 2019 after they performed Thangyat, a traditional performance art akin to slam poetry. They were wearing military uniforms and criticised the military, also known as the Tatmadaw.

All seven members face additional charges of “online defamation” under Section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Act for posting photos and videos and livestreaming performances on Facebook at Botahtaung Township Court.

Members of the Peacock Generation are facing the same charges in a number of other townships outside Yangon where they have performed Thangyat.

Thangyat is a century-old Myanmar traditional art form which fuses poetry, comedy and music, and is usually performed during Myanmar’s New Year water festival in April and 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 festivities, authorities in Yangon required Thangyat lyrics to be submitted to a government panel for approval. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)