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The Fish that Saved Burma
by Rene Wadlow
2007-11-01 10:21:21
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In an article « Laughter is medicine junta just can’t swallow » in the International Herald Tribune (29 October) Choe Sang-Hun repeats the joke of the Burmese vaudeville actor Par Par Lay as to why Burma escaped the worst of the deadly 2004 tsunami:

A junta leader dies and is reincarnated as a big fish. As the tsunami was rolling toward Myanmar, the fish told the wave “Stop, I have already done that there.”

His humour has landed Par Par Lay in jail again. He had already been arrested in 1996 and served five and a half years for his ‘government dance’ showing an officer stealing money from the poor. His vaudeville troop, the Moustache Brothers of Mandalay, has been barred from performing except for foreigners who can come to their home which has been transformed into a little theatre holding only 10 seats. The troop can only act in English which only one of the 13 comedians can speak. Thus the plays are a throwback to the comedy of silent films.

The Moustache Brothers troop is part of a popular Burmese tradition of vaudeville featuring puppets, music and slapstick comedy with a dose of political satire. Par Par Lay and his brother Lu Maw wear fake handlebar moustaches, giving the troop its name.

Unfortunately, the Myanmar junta is open neither to reasoned socio-economic and political discussion nor to humour. However, as a sign of support for Par Par Lay as well as many others held in Myanmar jails for their convictions, we can send to the authorities drawings of a fish and a big wave, with the caption “Been there. Done that”. They will not laugh loudly, but they may get the point.

The Myanmar Mission to the United Nations in New York is at 10 East 77th Street, New York, NY 10021, USA.

The Myanmar Mission to the UN, Geneva is Avenue Blanc 47, CH-1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Rene Wadlow is the Representative to the UN, Geneva, of the Association of World Citizens.

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