Comedian, Film Actor and Director
born in 1961
U Thura (also known as Zarganar, meaning ‘tweezers’ in Burmese) was born into a political and intellectual family; the youngest of three sons of well-known writer Daw Kyi Oo and U Nan Nyunt Swe. U Thura graduated from Yangon’s elite Dagon 1 High School in 1977 and received a degree in dental surgery from Yangon University of Dental Medicine in 1985. While in dentistry school, he worked as a volunteer literacy teacher in Chin State and wrote about his experiences in a book, published by the Sape Beikman, the country’s official literary publishing house.
During the 1988 uprising, Zarganar was arrested for being an “instigator” and sent to the notorious Insein prison for a year.
After his release, Zarganar was arrested again for helping his mother during her campaign as a member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) for the May 1990 general elections. He was sentenced to a further 4 years imprisonment in Insein prison in May 1990.
In May 2006, Zarganar was banned from performing in the country after giving an interview to the BBC regarding government regulations on the Thingyan water festival, and for making a television commercial suggesting Taiwanese Independence.
On 25 September 2007, Zarganar was arrested at his home for his role in the monks’ “Saffron Revolution”. During the preceding two days he had publicly delivered food and water to Buddhist monks preparing to protest, together with fellow Burmese actor and celebrity Kyaw Thu. The weekend before that, he had urged the public to support the monks in interviews with radio stations based outside Burma. He was released from Insein prison on 17 October 2007.
Since Cyclone Nargis devastated vast swathes of the Irrawaddy delta, Zarganar has been heavily involved in delivering volunteer disaster relief aid in the cyclone-damaged areas. An estimated 400 Burmese involved in the entertainment world joined together to help.
The comedian, actor and director U Thura (aka) Zarganar, who was leading volunteer aid efforts for Nargis Cyclone victims, was arrested at 9 pm at his Sanchaung home on 4 June 2008. Family members confirmed that the district police commander of Western Rangoon together with 9 other policemen came to the house at 8:30 pm and searched it thoroughly.
The police officers confiscated a computer, video CDs of Than Shwe’s daughter’s wedding, Rambo 4 (banned in Burma) and footage of Cyclone Nargis and its aftermath, a cash account book and 30 foreign exchange coupons (each valued at $1, used in place of hard foreign currency which is banned in Burma).
“They said it would take one or two days but they asked us to pack medications and clothing,” Ma Htwe, Zarganar’s sister-in-law, told Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service. “They said they would bring him back, but he’s still not home. I didn’t believe them. They always do that, they always say one or two days, but I never trust them. They are always trying to twist and turn the law,” Ma Htwe said. “We have always been bullied, whatever happens they say it’s Zarganar, never anyone else. Everyone from the arts world has done this, but no one else has been called for interrogation. Only Zarganar,” she said.
Zarganar was released from prison in 2011.
last update in 2015