06/05/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Famous Burmese actor arrested for helping cyclone victims

Police took Zarganar from his home to interrogate him on his private initiatives to aid Nargis survivors. The actor denounced the junta’s corruption and the humanitarian crises in the disaster zone.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – He brought vital aid to the victims of cyclone Nargis and he spoke with International media denouncing junta corruption in Myanmar, this was why yesterday evening the country’s most famous comic actor, Zarganar, was arrested.  The news was broken this morning by The Irrawaddy, citing sources close to the artist.  Around 22.30 nine officials took him into custody The officials searched Zarganar’s Tangon home and seized his computer and CD’s documenting the disaster zones ( in the Irrawaddy and Yangon divisions)as well as thousands of dollars in cash which he had collected for survivors. The artist had already been arrested in October 2007.  On that occasion he had publically sided in favour of the Buddhist monks peaceful protests which were bloodily repressed.

The authorities reportedly said Zarganar would be held for two or three days for questioning about the sources of the money he collected for cyclone victims. Friends said he also faced prosecution for mocking an article in the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, which said cyclone survivors could exist on what they could scavenge in the countryside rather than on “chocolate bars” from western air groups.

Zarganar organized relief missions into the cyclone-hit areas and returned with personal accounts of the terrible hardship he had encountered there.  He recruited more than 400 volunteers and divided them into groups of helpers, who took aid to 42 villages, some of which had until then received no help at all after the cyclone. He ignored official instructions not to talk to the foreign press, who valued him as a reliable source of information about the situation in the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon Division. According to some the regime is trying to disrupt the aid process. By arresting Zarganar, the authorities are hoping to intimidate other helpers and donors.

 

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