12 Dec 2014

Kiwi jailed for religious insult

11:30 am on 12 December 2014

The use of Buddha in a promotional poster for a Myanmar bar has landed a New Zealand bar owner in jail.

The promotional poster which has landed Philip Blackwood in jail.

The promotional poster by V Gastro bar. Photo: SUPPLIED

Philip Blackwood appeared in court accused of contravening Myanmar's stringent religious insult laws.

The promotional poster for the V Gastro bar showed an image of the Buddha wearing DJ headphones, and was deemed by Police to be an insult to the Buddha.

Blackwood was denied bail and is being held in prison with two other men - believed to be the co-owners of the bar in the capital, Yangon.

They will appear in court again next week.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the New Zealand Embassy in Yangon had been in contact with Mr Blackwood and was providing consular support.

The bar's Facebook page has now posted an apology from the bar owners regarding the poster:

"Gastro management would like to express our sincere regret if we have offended the citizens of this wonderful city, who have welcomed us so warmly and generously. Our intention was never to cause offence to anyone or toward any religious group. " it said.

"Our ignorance is embarrassing for us and we will attempt to correct it by learning more about Myanmar's religions, culture and history, characteristics that make this such a rich and unique society. We thank the citizens of Yangon for their patience and kindness and sincerely hope that our apology will be accepted" .

VGastro's Facebook apology and the comments which followed.

The Facebook comments which followed the V Gastro's apology. Photo: FACEBOOK

Myanmar has seen a surge in religious nationalism in the past few months, with significant violence against minority ethnic groups in the country, as well as westerners deemed to be insulting the national religion of Buddhism.

Those targeted include the Rohingya, descendants of migrants who originally entered Myanmar from India in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

International observers, including US President Obama during his November visit to Myanmar, have appealed to the Burmese government to look into discrimination against some groups, including the Muslim Rohingyas.

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