April 17 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch demanded Wednesday that Myanmar drop all charges against four comedic performers who criticized the military during a traditional performance to ring in the country's April New Year.
Zayar Lwin, Pang Ye Thu, Paing Phyo Min and Su Yadanar Myint of the Peacock Generation Thangyat troupe were arrested Monday for having live-streamed their satirical performance on Facebook.
A thangyat is a traditional folk art performance that combines poetry with dance and music, during which performers recite satirical lyrics criticizing everything from politics to social behavior, according to The Irrawaddy.
The troupe members were charged under the 2013 telecommunications law that has been repeatedly used against journalists and critics of the government. It was not immediately clear what exactly they were charged for, the New York Times reported.
The charge carries a maximum two-year prison sentence.
Myint, who was one of the four members arrested, said the troupe had worn military costumes during thangyat a week earlier.
"The military may want to sue us because our lyrics rub salt in their wounds," she said.
The four members were later released, but the arrests are continuing a trend in Myanmar including arrests of critics of Nobel Peace Prize Laurent Aung San Su Kyi's government.
"Myanmar's authorities are demonstrating once again their intolerance of criticism, even in satirical form," Human Rights International's Asia legal adviser Linda Lakhdhir said in a statement. "Rather than arresting their critics, the government should listen to what they have to say."
The four arrests come on the heels of the arrest of filmmaker and human rights activist Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi who was sued by the military for criticizing the military draft on Facebook.
He was charged under the same telecommunications law and was denied bail despite worries over this health as he was recovering from surgery for liver cancer.
"By censoring satire and arresting those who refuse to be censored, Myanmar's government is showing utter disregard for free expression," Lakhdhir said. "Charges against satirists, whether poets or writers, should be dropped and the government should promptly amend or repeal all laws that criminalize peaceful criticism."