Two and a half years in prison for advertising a bar with a poster of Buddha in earphones.
A New Zealander and two Burmese men have been found guilty of insulting religion in Myanmar over a poster promoting a drinks event depicting Buddha with headphones.
Philip Blackwood, who managed the VGastro Bar in Yangon, was arrested in December along with bar owner Tun Thurein and colleague Htut Ko Ko Lwin.
They have each been sentenced to two and a half years in jail.
Burmese law makes it illegal to insult or damage any religion.
From what I know of Siddhartha, he would think that’s a crock of shit.
The poster, which was posted on Facebook to advertise a cheap drinks night, showed Buddha surrounded by psychedelic colours. It sparked an angry response online.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen growing Buddhist nationalism in recent years.
And persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Yay religion!!
[T]he judge, Ye Lwin, said that though Blackwood apologised, he had “intentionally plotted to insult religious belief” when he uploaded the poster on Facebook, reported AFP news agency.
Blackwood, 32, said he planned to appeal against the sentence.
Speaking after sentencing outside the court before being bundled into a car, he said that he was “pretty disappointed” with his punishment, which was “more than the maximum sentence”.
“I have said that I was sorry so many times,” he said. “It was nothing to do with me.”
Before sentencing he said that he had removed the image and posted an apology when he realised it was being shared online and provoking outrage.
Well that doesn’t cut it with religious nationalists aka theocrats. Revenge is theirs.
Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said that the three men acted in a culturally insensitive way but should not have been sent to prison.
“By using the Religion Act to criminalise these three individuals, rather than accepting an apology and dealing with it in another way, the government is, sort of, setting up more witch hunts against persons that these Buddhist groups view as being insulting to their religion,” he said.
Is it really even “culturally insensitive”? Clearly it is according to the most zealous religious nationalists, but why take their pov as the normative one? I doubt that Burma is completely empty of more easygoing and kindly people who don’t object to friendly images of the Buddha.
Also – did the BBC include the image so that we can judge it for ourselves? Of course it didn’t.