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Celebrated comedian-actor arrested after criticising government response to cyclone crisis

(Mizzima/IFEX) - The prominent Burmese comedian, actor and director Zarganar, who has been playing an active role helping cyclone survivors, was arrested and taken from his residence by authorities on the evening of 4 June 2008, according to members of his family.

Observers believe that the arrest is in reprisal for the celebrity's outspoken nature and his critical stance toward the government's slow response to the crisis.

At about 8:00 p.m. (local time) on the night of 4 June, a team of nine police officers, led by the district Police commander of Western Rangoon, raided Zarganar's residence in Sanchuang township. The police team confiscated a computer, DVDs, various financial documents and US$1000 from Zarganar's residence. Zarganar was reportedly taken away for further interrogation after the police team searched his house.

"They came in and said they would only conduct a search, but after searching the house at about 10:45 p.m., they told Zarganar to get dressed to go out. They said they would take him for about two days," said the family source.

Zarganar was among the first Burmese celebrities to have rushed to help cyclone survivors after Cyclone Nargis struck Burma on 2-3 May 2008. He has played an active role in reaching people with aid supplies, including rice and other commodities.

Zarganar has been frequently arrested by the authorities for daring to speak to the media about the situation of the tightly-controlled Burmese. In May 2006, authorities banned Zarganar from practicing any artistic performances, including writing and film acting and directing, after he was interviewed by the Burmese Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

For further information on past persecution of Zarganar, see:

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