A New Zealand bar manager and his two Myanmar colleagues were jailed for two and a half years with hard labour by a Yangon court Tuesday for using a Buddha image to promote a cheap drinks night. The ad posted on Facebook in December caused outrage in the former junta-ruled country, where surging Buddhist nationalism and religious violence has sparked international concern.
The authorities are clearly trying to make an example with this case, but ironically all it has done is hurt the image of Myanmar and Buddhism.
Matt Smith, executive director of the Bangkok-based group Fortify Rights
Philip Blackwood, who worked at the VGastro bar in Yangon, was found guilty of insulting religion along with the bar’s Myanmar owner and manager, after the New Zealander put a picture the Buddha wearing DJ headphones on Facebook. Blackwood, who has a seven-month-old daughter, along with 40-year-old bar owner Tun Thurein and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26, have been held in Yangon’s notorious Insein prison since their arrest in December.