The members of the Peacock Generation thangyat troupe were arrested in April over performances during celebrations of Burma’s traditional new year in which they poked fun at military representatives in parliament and military involvement in business.
Members of Student Union and leaders of Peacock Generation “Thangyat” Performance Group.
The troupe combines dance and music with satirical verses. The five were convicted under a law prohibiting the spread of information that could endanger or demoralize the military.
Joanne Mariner, a research director for the human rights organization Amnesty International called the verdict “appalling,” saying that the punishment “speaks volumes about the dire state of freedom of expression” in Burma.
The offense is punishable by up to two years in prison, and release on bail is not allowed. Seven members of the troupe face various charges related to the case, including for “online defamation” for livestreaming their performances.
“This sentencing of Peacock Generation means that the judiciary of the country is continuing the military’s suppression of freedom of expression,” said Maung Saungkha of Athan, a Burma-based free-speech group.
Though Burma ended five decades of a military-dominated government in 2016, the military maintains a powerful political force in the country. Constitutional provisions adopted under military rule ensures the army plays a major role in the country’s government.
Initial liberalization of restrictive press laws did not end official efforts to stymie free speech, with reporters and activists continuing to face legal challenges under laws covering defamation and online activities.
In August, another court in Yangon sentenced a prominent filmmaker to a year in prison for allegedly defaming the military with Facebook posts.
Another filmmaker, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, who founded Burma’s Human Dignity Film Institute and the country’s Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival, has also been jailed since April
The Associated Press contributed to this report.