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We Must Fight, We Are Dead Men Already!

June 4th, 2007

I’m currently in Burma (Myanmar) and I went to see a show in Mandalay that I want to tell you about. The show was performed by The Moustache Brothers, a group of three comedians. Two of them where sent in prison for 5 years for making jokes against the repressive government. (for an history of Burma please read : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myanmar) The show is now held only in English and only one, Lu Maw, speaks English. Many travellers told me the show was disappointing because it was not the strong critic of the political situation they were expected. The thing is, the show is mainly about traditional dancing and music, if you want to talk politics, you have to talk with them after or before the show. Before going I prepared a few questions that I wanted to ask them and Lu Maw answered them all. Here is a resume of what he told me.

Me: How do you call your country? (Burma or Myanmar)
Lu: I call it Burma

Me: But that’s the name that the British gave it…
Lu: And Myanmar the one the army give.

Me: Can you tell me about the events that lead to the arrestation of two members at a show?
Lu: It’s the following joke : One day I have a very bad toothake so I went to see the dentist in Thailand. The dentist asked me: “Why do you come to Thailand to see a dentist?” The answer : “Because in Burma I’m not allowed to open my mouth”.

Lu Maw during the showMe: Did they get a better treatment in prison because they were famous?
Lu: Yes, they did only two months of forced labor and 5 years instead of seven. Many famous actors & Amnesty International wrote letters to the government.

Me: What is your position on the tourism, knowing that Aung San Suu Kyi said tourists should boycott the country.
Lu: As I said in the show, we are alive because of tourism. The time have changed since she said that. Now a lot of money comes in the country from China, the little money of the tourists don’t change anything. When the tourists come they tell our story and interest people in our faith, so it’s good.

Me: What do you think of countries like China, Thailand, Singapore, etc that invest in Burma?
Lu: It makes the European (and western) boycott useless.

Me: Some people looks ritch, espacialy in Yangoon, driving expensive cars. Are they all friends of the regime?
Lu: Yes, most likely. Even the company that makes money are all joint venture with the government and have to pay a lot of money.

Me: Is there anything the monks can do? What is they’re position knowing that the Junta finance a lot of Pagoda and Stuppa?
Lu: The young ones are angry, the older are hand in hand with the Junta.

Me: What is the hope of ordinary citizens? What do they want to become?
Lu: They want democratie.

Me: Is there a solution for the citizens to put pressure on the governement to make things change?
Lu: Not much, they get killed or jailed. Many are already dead. We need outside pressure.

Me: Is there still some soldiers who come in front of your house during the show?
Lu: Not anymore, since 1996 it as been quiet thanks to you, tourists.

Just before I left, Lu Maw told me : We must fight, we are dead men already.

The 3 Moustache BrothersOn my way home I was thinking about the meaning of that sentence after he told me there isn’t much the citizens can do. Aung San Suu Ky was force to stay another year under house arrest a few day before the show. Students and citizens manifested in the capital. Many of them haven’t been hurd of since. I guess even if they know they won’t survived the desire to be free is stronger.

The questions and answers have been rephrase as a lot of the dialogue was a mixture of sign and spelling the words.

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