Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Interview with Comedian Zarganar

Source: Democratic Voice of Burma

DVB had a chance to speak with comedian Zarganar who had been detained since last month for making alm offerings to protesting monks. Zarganar is well-known for his spot-on sarcasm about the junta, and in the past twenty years, he has been detained more frequently than not.

In the interview, Zarganar told DVB that monks in custody have been forced to defrock. However, the three monks he met continue to meditate and observe the rules of Sangha. He said the monks told him that the conditions in concentration camps were terrible; the monks in custody were made to squat, urinate, and pass motion in the same confined space. They were also not given any food.

One of the monks he met in prison, U Tilawbartha, a 76-year-old sayadaw (senior monk) was kicked in the ribs during the arrests. He was also told by a friend that another monk was shot in the spine and had to be admitted to the prison hospital. He said that such treatment of the monks saddened him so much that he would rather not be reborn as a Buddhist ever again.

He also told DVB that prison facilities and healthcare were grossly inadequate. Due to the unscrupulous crackdown, the prison was overcrowded and there was a severe lack of hygiene. Prisoners have to sleep, eat, and pass motion in the same small space; no soap was provided. As winter sets in, prisoners are expected to face worse conditions as they have not been given any warm clothing or blankets. Families are also denied the chance to see the prisoners or pass them medication that they require.

One of the members of the opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD), U Hla Pe, an 81 year old who has previously broken his leg, can only walk with the aid of a walking stick, and hence is having a hard time under such harsh conditions. Other elderly NLD members are also said to be suffering from gastritis and high blood pressure, with one who he felt has already had a mild stroke.

Zarganar said that the prison could not provide appropriate medication for these people. He said that the officials were also restricted by the fact that these prisoners are not directly in their custody, and they were required to seek permission from officers controlling the concentration camps before giving any aid or medical treatment to the prisoners.

To listen to the interview in Burmese, please follow this link: http://burmese.dvb.no/news.php?id=2552

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