Maung Thura– widely known by his performance name, Zarganar– was arrested by the junta on Tuesday morning, according to a source close to his family.
The 60-year-old comedian, actor and film director is a former political prisoner and a well-known critic of Myanmar’s past military governments. He was jailed multiple times after the 1988 popular uprising for his political activism, which he carried out through comedy and other performance platforms.
Details of Zarganar’s arrest were still unknown at the time of reporting and the military’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
After his initial release from prison in 1994, Zarganar was barred from engaging in any public performances, and banned from disseminating his writing.
He was arrested and detained again in 2007 for supporting striking monks during Myanmar’s Saffron Revolution, and again in 2008 for aiding those affected by Cyclone Nargis. That same year, he was handed a 59-year prison sentence after being convicted of multiple charges for his work, according to PEN America, which classified him as a “Writer at Risk.”
Zarganar was finally released in 2011 under an amnesty with several other political prisoners after Thein Sein’s government took office.
Also a film director, Zarganar was once involved in the making of the biographical film about Myanmar independence icon General Aung San.
Since his release in 2011, he has made filmmaking a primary focus. Zarganar co-organized the Art of Freedom Festival in 2012 with film director Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, who has been detained by the junta since the early morning of the military coup on February 1.
Zarganar criticized the coup on his Facebook page after the military seized power from the elected civilian government led by the National League for Democracy’s Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military regime has also issued arrest warrants for several filmmakers, actors, celebrities, influencers and journalists for speaking out against the coup and supporting the Civil Disobedience Movement. The movement aims to topple the junta headed by military chief Min Aung Hlaing.