Attendances at National League for Democracy office openings in Mandalay and Sagaing regions have been swelled by the regular appearance of renowned comedian Par Par Lay.
In his speeches at the office openings, Par Par Lay has urged attendees to abandon their fear of politics, a message he said is targeted at those who are considering joining the party for the first time.
Par Par Lay launched what he calls his “no fear” campaign in June and has attended office openings in Myingyan, Ngazun, Taungtha, Myotha, Ayardaw and Shwebo in Sagaing region and some townships in Mandalay region.
“I already went to about 40 offices for this campaign. I don’t crticise or point out any weak points about our opponents, I just tell people how they can move within the framework of the [law]. Sometimes I make political jokes and sing songs … I also tell people about courage, giving the example of how I would go and perform, even though I knew I could be arrested after the performance,” said Par Par Lay.
One-third of the well-known Moustache Brothers troupe, Par Par Lay has been imprisoned three times, on the first occasion after performing at Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house on Independence Day in 1996.
He said Daw Aung Sann Suu Kyi told him in 1988 that famous artists had more influence among voters than politicians and he hopes to exercise this influence for the party right up until the 2015 election.
“We need to try to get more people [to vote] for the NLD in the 2015 election and I am working for this goal. I decided on the ‘no fear’ theme because I found that some were afraid to vote for the NLD even in the by-elections and I still see some of them [are afraid]. So I talked to them about courage and democracy by comparing with my life, the difficulties I faced in the past, and letting them know what human rights are,” he said, adding that he thought about one-third of people in the areas he visited were afraid of politics.
“I just targeted prospective members at the campaigns, not those already in the party. Some people are afraid to take a pamphlet or wear red-coloured clothing … I also went around some working class wards before the by-elections … it seems like we were successful because we got many more votes than our rivals in those places.”
NLD member U Ko Ko Aung from Mandalay’s Pyigyitagun township said that the support of respected artists like Par Par Lay gave the NLD a significant boost.
“Par Par Lay in Mandalay and Zaganar in Yangon are famous comedians who sacrificed their lives for politics and the people love them. More people come to the opening of NLD ward offices if Par Par Lay is there so we have a better opportunity to give them a political message at the time,” U Ko Ko Aung said.
“However some senior NLD officials in Mandalay Region don’t like Par Par Lay and we think it because Par Par Lay used to get more cheers than them. We asked Par Par Lay about it … but he said there were no [problem].”