|Myanmar / Burma:
Musicians are being arrested
Two members of the controversial Burmese hip-hop group Acid have recently been arrested, possibly because of lyrics in some of their songs referring to the lack of press freedom in the country. Artists in Burma have had a hard time since the September 2007 demonstrations. In November 2007 the lead guitarist in Shwe Thansin group, one of Burma’s top bands of the 1990s, was imprisoned.
The Burmese rap singer Zayar Thaw from the hip-hop group Acid was arrested in the country’s capital Rangoon in February 2008, while on 17 April 2008 his colleague Yan Yan Chan was arrested together with his girl friend in a night-time raid on the home of a friend in Monywa Township in Upper Burma.
Acid is a popular hip-hop band on the country’s music scene. It was founded by Yan Yan Chan, Zayar Thaw and two other musicians in 2000. Acid’s repertoire contains thinly veiled attacks on the regime, whose censors have until now been too obtuse to unravel their meaning. But as opposition to a 10 May referendum on a new draft constitution grows, the authorities seem to be lashing out in all directions.
The Burmese authorities presently are reported to hold nearly 2,000 political prisoners.
No news and no charges
He told Freemuse that since the arrest of Zayar Thaw in February, Irrawaddy has been in daily touch with friends of the band members, through internet-chat and e-mail, but so far, there has been no news from Burma concerning the arrests.
The Irrawaddy has also repeatedly been in touch with the Burmese police, but without finding out more about the arrests.
“There are no charges and we don’t even know where the two musicians are. The police have not told us anything.”
“As a music lover and journalist, I fear that this is a part of a governmental crackdown on music that is used as a tool to transfer a political message. Hip-hop is a part of the Burmese underground music scene that reaches a new generation of the Burmese people,” Yeni said.
Referendum on a new constitution
According to sources in Rangoon, the intelligence services have drawn up a list of 34 journalists to be kept under surveillance in the run-up to the referendum, and at least 60 people were arrested in the northern state of Rakhine at the start of April for wearing T-shirts calling for a ‘No’-vote.
Musician arrested in November
Two of the three had already served long prison terms. Win Maw, lead guitarist in the Shwe Thansin group, one of Burma’s top bands of the 1990s, was sentenced in 1997 to seven years imprisonment for writing songs in support of Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He was released in 2003.
Myat San, a member of the Tri-Colour Students Group, which provided security for Suu Kyi in 1989, was sentenced to 20 years for participating in a students demonstration in support of Suu Kyi in December 1991. He was released from Taungoo Prison after more than 15 years – in 2005.
At the time, Amnesty International issued a strong statement condemning the arrests, saying:
“Two months after the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, arbitrary arrests continue unabated as part of the Myanmar [Burma] government’s systematic suppression of freedom of expression and association, contrary to its claims of a return to normalcy.”
Internet blocked or slowed down
In January 2008, the authorities arrested one of Burma’s best known bloggers, Nay Phone Latt, whose Internet sites were a major source of information about the protests and the regime’s brutal crackdown in September 2007. Nay Phone Latt was a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy, and he owned the Explorer internet café in Rangoon’s Papedan Township, the Heaven internet café in Thingangyun Township and a third in the same suburb. All three internet cafés were closed down.
Yan Yan Chan
Video clip on YouTube
Yan Yan Chan: ‘Lite Kye’
Google News – continously updated:
Search: ‘Yan Yan Chan’
The Irrawaddy – 18 April 2008:
‘Popular Burmese Rap Performer Arrested’
The First Post – 18 April 2008:
‘Junta imprisons Yan Yan Chan’
The Irrawaddy – 28 November 2007:
”Popular Musician and Friends Arrested in Rangoon’
Ashin Mettacara’s blog – 18 April 2008:
‘Free Yan Yan Chan’
In-depth report on music censorship in Burma
How censorship is carried out in Burma
“In Burma, or Myanmar as the generals insist it be called, the government has created artist associations for writers, journalists and any form of entertainer, even athletes. In order to create anything new, permission must be obtained from the government. But before getting approval, the artist’s association memberships are reviewed.
Permission also must be obtained from the police. Military intelligence must approve the content, too.
Video clip on Salon.com
‘Bateman: Burma’s dangerous hip-hop scene’