Zarganar is best known as a comedian but he is also a poet, writer and filmmaker. He is currently serving a 35-year sentence in Myitkyina Prison. All outside communication is prohibited.
The early years
Maung Thura was born in 1961, the third son of two writers. During college and dental school, he worked with several troupes in drama, dance and comedy. Following graduation, he started performing full time, adopting the name Zarganar, which means "tweezers".
Zarganar formed his own comedy troupe, engaging audiences with satire directed against Burmaâ€™s military leaders. In 1988, when the junta rejected democratic elections, Zarganar joined "8888 Uprising", a pro-democracy student movement, and quickly established himself as a leader.
In October 1988, following the pro-democracy demonstrations, Zarganar was arrested and sent to Insein Prison where he wrote poetry in the dust and committed it to memory. International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, campaigned for his release; he was freed after six months.
Zarganar was arrested again in 1990 while cracking jokes at a political rally. He returned to Insein and spent five years in solitary confinement. Following his release, he immediately returned to the stage. Though his tapes and videos were strictly censored, he was allowed to work for the next 12 years. Restrictions resumed in 2006 following an interview with the BBC which angered military leaders. They banned all Zarganarâ€™s writing, publishing and performing.
When Burmese monks took to the streets in the autumn of 2007, Zarganar again put himself in harmâ€™s way, delivering food to the monks. He was arrested and held for three weeks.
Zarganarâ€™s latest arrest in June 2008 came as no surprise. Government officials put him back in Insein Prison after he made jokes about their mismanagement of the Cyclone Nargis relief effort. Late in 2008, he was moved from Insein to Myitkyina Prison in northern Burma.
The regime has further punished political prisoners by transferring them to remote prisons - Myitkyina is 900 miles from Yangon, previously Rangoon, and the former capital. Separated from family and friends, they lose the networks that provide food and medicines, as well as moral support.
"Instead of being persecuted and imprisoned, people like Zarganar...should be allowed to help their country," says Human Rights Watch. "When visiting Burma, foreign officials should ask not just to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, but other Burmese political activists in prison to solicit their views and show support for their courageous and important work."
Zarganarâ€™s original sentence of 59 years was reduced to 35 in February 2009. The case is now on appeal. He has insisted that humour in Burma will prevail. "Burmese people love to laugh. If I canâ€™t speak, jokes will still spread. People will make them up themselves."