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Famed moustached comedian and political dissident Par Par Lay, who helped co-found the popular Moustache Brothers comedy troupe, died of kidney failure in his home in Mandalay on Friday aged 67.
Fellow moustache brother Lu Maw said he was unaware of Par Par Lay’s condition and noted that the brother had complained of back pain but remained committed to putting on shows despite the pain.
“He started suffering from backaches in January this year, but he was not very attentive as he had busy schedules with the campaigns and performance shows,” said Lu Maw.
According to Par Par Lay’s family, the comedian had also suffered from diabetes and coronary artery disease.
“My brother was in prison three times. When he was in jail for six months in 1990, I looked after the family on his behalf. And then again when he was jailed for seven years in 1996,” said Lu Maw.
“Now I have to take the responsibility on behalf of my brother.”
The Moustache Brothers were comprised of Par Par Lay and his cousins Lu Zaw and La Maw. The famous troupe was popular among travellers passing through Mandalay. The comedians were well known for their slapstick humour and courage to criticise Burma’s military leaders during the junta’s iron-fisted rule.
The trio have been strong supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and campaigned for the opposition party in the run up last year’s by-elections, where the Lady and 42 NLD members won parliamentary seats.
Par Par Lay was jailed three times by the former military government for his biting political commentary. He was first imprisoned in 1990 for criticising the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council, which refused to hand over power to the NLD despite its landslide victory in the general elections.
In 1996, Par Par Lay, along with fellow comedian Lu Zaw, were sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with hard labour for ridiculing the former military regime during a performance at Suu Kyi’s home marking independence day. The comedian was again briefly jailed following the military’s crackdown on monk-led protests in late September 2007.
In November 2012, Par Par Lay launched the ‘No Fear Campaign’, where he promoted Suu Kyi’s famous concept of freedom from fear of the military at opening ceremonies of NLD field offices.