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Comedian says Zarganar will boost prison morale

Dec 8, 2008 (DVB), Comedian Pa Pa Lay has said the 59-year jail term given to fellow performer Zarganar will not demoralise him and will raise morale in the prison where he is being held.

Activist and comedian Zarganar was sentenced to 59 years in prison last month and sent to the remote Myitkyina prison in Kachin state.

Pa Pa Lay, a member of the Moustache Brothers performance troupe, spent seven years in Myitkyina prison and said Zarganar's presence was likely to boost the spirits of inmates and staff alike.

"We are concerned that he is being detained, of course, but Zarganar and I have the same mentality. We are healthy as long as we can sing, dance and joke," he said.

"If we can crack jokes as soon as roll call is made, everyone feels better for the rest of the day," he went on.

"We can even make the people who are giving the orders smile and that is a tonic , they even ask us to crack more jokes."

Pa Pa Lay said conditions were very difficult during his time in prison.

"I was moved to a new cell every month or two. The food was poor and there was not enough water. The roof leaked and I had to sleep on the concrete floor," the comedian said.

"The weather was bitterly cold and it was worse in the labour camps with no protection from the elements," he said.

"As a result, we contracted skin conditions and chronic gastric diseases with bloody stools. We received no treatment from outside."

Pa Pa Lay said the recent long-term prison sentences and transfers to remote prisons were intended to demoralise the detained activists and their families.

"I want to offer them words of encouragement, to tell them that they will be free one day," he said.

"Those who work for the people will pray for them and for their immediate release."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw


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