March 5, 2012

hISTORY ENDS EVERYWHERE:

Satirist sees 'new dawn' in Burma (Peter Goodspeed,  Mar 4, 2012, National Post)

He spent five years in solitary confinement and was once locked in a dog kennel in Insein Prison. He was also beaten and tortured.

In 2006, he was banned indefinitely from performing publicly and prohibited from participating in any kind of entertainment-related work.

Two years later, when Burma was ravaged by Cyclone Nargis, which killed 140,000 people, Zarganar organized hundreds of entertainers to deliver relief supplies to victims. He was immediately jailed after he criticized the military government's incompetence and indifference to the emergency during a foreign television interview.

He was sentenced to 59 years in prison.

When that punishment triggered international outrage, an appeals court reduced his sentence to 35 years.

His jail term was suspended in October, when Zarganar was suddenly released, along with several hundred other political prisoners, as part of a reform movement being promoted by a new civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, a retired general.

After decades of harsh military rule, Burma has embarked on a series of dramatic changes that seek to bring opposition movements into the political process and saw Ms. Suu Kyi released from 18 years of house arrest.

Restrictions have been relaxed on the media, exiles have been invited to return home and ceasefires have been signed in Burma's ethnic conflicts. Ms. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has also been allowed to register as a political party and will contest 48 parliamentary by-elections in April.

"Our country is starting to change," says Zarganar, who is in Toronto to speak at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto on Saturday.

"We stand at a new dawn. This is the very beginning of change in our country. We don't want to go back to the dark."
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Posted by at March 5, 2012 5:50 AM
  

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