RANGOON, Burma – A court inside Burma's notorious Insein prison sentenced a comedian who has criticized the government's cyclone response to 14 more years Thursday, bringing his total prison term to 59 years, his lawyer said.
Comedian and activist Zarganar was given a 45-year prison sentence last week after he was convicted on charges related to interviews he gave to foreign media outlets. In the interviews, he said the government was too slow in responding to a May cyclone that killed more than 84,000 people.
Burma's military, which has held power since 1962, tolerates no dissent. It frequently arrests artists and entertainers regarded as opposing the regime.
It has further ramped up its crackdown on dissent since Buddhist monks led pro-democracy protests in September 2007.
The government holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007, before the demonstrations, according to international human rights groups.
The military government's wave of harsh sentences has been condemned worldwide by Western governments and human rights groups. They contend that the sentences make a mockery of the ruling junta's professed plan to restore democracy with a 2010 election.
Zarganar's lawyer, Khin Htay Kywe, said he was convicted Thursday for causing public alarm, a reference to his interviews with foreign media, and for communicating with exiled dissidents, among other charges.
Zarganar, whose birth name is Maung Thura, was among at least 100 people to receive sentences of two to 65 years since early November. Many of the trials were held in closed sessions, sometimes without defense lawyers or family present.
He has been imprisoned several times before, including a three-week stint for providing aid to those who demonstrated last year.