A court in Yangon sentenced five activists to one year in prison with labour on Wednesday for criticising the military during a traditional thangyat performance.
The performers from the Peacock Generation troupe lambasted military leaders during their shows in April, which traditionally coincide with the Thingyan New Year festival.
“With no wisdom or intelligence, they only know obedience and order. Send the decorated generals to the ICC,” they chanted, referring to the International Criminal Court.
“He who is scared of the ICC should avoid Naypyidaw,” they continued.
In response Lt Col Myo Min Oo of Yangon Region Command pressed charges under Section 505a of the penal code.
The law bans statements that might induce military officers to “disregard or fail” in their duties and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
“Punishing people for performing a piece of satire speaks volumes about the dire state of freedom of expression in Myanmar,” said Joanne Mariner, research director for Southeast Asia at Amnesty International.
The performers are Zeyar Lwin, Paing Ye Thu, Kay Khine Tun, Paing Phyo Min and Zaw Lin Tun. They will have time served cut from their sentences after being denied bail and spending months in Insein prison.
Three of them now face a separate defamation charge under Section 66d of the Telecommunications Law.
And another two Peacock Generation activists arrested in May will appear in court for their final rulings next month.