Burmese Celebrities Try to Help Survivors

By VIOLET CHO Friday, May 30, 2008<!– , –>

A planned public fundraising drive by the well-known Moustache Brothers comedy troupe to collect money to help Cyclone Nargis survivors was halted by a professional entertainer’s association in Mandalay on Thursday. 

Burmese actor Lu Min offers dry clothes to cyclone survivors.

The Moustache Brothers, who are known for their support of the pro-democracy movement, were told they could not go out to raise funds alone. The association said, however, that they could join its fundraising drive scheduled on Thursday.

The Moustache Brothers declined the offer. The comedy troupe has been banned from performing in public by the military authorities for nearly a decade.

The Mandalay’s Myanma Theatrical Association, which is authorized by the military government, put on a fundraising drive on Thursday with dancers and musicians who rode around the city in cars to collect donations.

Two of the Mustache Brothers performers, Par Par Lay and his cousin, Lu Zaw, were arrested last September in Mandalay for their public support of the pro-democracy demonstrations when they offered alms to Buddhist monks at a monastery. Par Par Lay spent about one month in prison.

Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw were sentenced to prison for seven years in the 1990s for making fun of the military regime.

“All of the comedians were excited and enthusiastic,” said Lu Maw.  “We were ready to go out to raise funds when people come to stop us.”

The performers’ association, which is authorized by the military government, took other comedians, dancers and musicians around Mandalay in cars to collect public donations on Thursday.

Elsewhere, the regime has allowed some movie stars and musicians to organize concerts to raise funds for cyclone survivors.

Several popular bands and singers will join in a concert on June 7 in Rangoon sponsored by the Myanmar Brewery Co Ltd, according to the state-run newspaper Kyaymon (The Mirror) o¬n Thursday.

In addition, several high-profile movie stars and entertainers have taken on public fundraising roles.

The well-known Rangoon musician, Zaw Win Htut, said he and fellow volunteers recently made several trips to the delta region to deliver rice, cooking oil, salt and other supplies to people in the hard-hit areas.

“We are now thinking more about reconstruction,” he said. “We are considering helping to build schools because all of the schools in the damaged areas are destroyed.”

The Burmese comedian and social activist Zargana has also performed high-profile relief work in the Irrawaddy Delta.

“There are many survivors in small fishing villages on remote islands which private aid groups can not reach because the transportation is very bad,” he said. “People are in a desperate situation with the loss of family members and no relief assistance.”





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