The use of Buddha in a promotional poster on a Myanmar bar Facebook page has landed a New Zealand national and two Burmese men in jail.
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. The publicity stunt bombed spectacularly on social media, it went viral with devastating effect for V Gastro Bar as it was bombarded with protestation and criticism from Myanmar’s Facebook users and leading to the arrest of the trio and the closure of the bar.
Blackwood the General Manager of the bar was denied bail and is being held in prison with two Burmese men – owner Tun Thurein, 40, and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26 in the capital, Yangon.
They will appear in court again next week on 18th December 2014.
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” .
Consult-Myanmar’s Note: Myanmar people are very gentle and kind people. It is sheer ignorance and stupidity that led Philip Blackwood to put a photo of Buddha in an unflattering light on his bar’s website. If you were to do the same in Thailand you would end up in jail as well. If you are in the Middle East and you put an unflattering photo of the Prophet – you will probably be lynched. People with commonsense don’t go to another person’s home and show funny picture of the host’s God. To learn more about how to act responsibly download the PDF “the Do and Don’t for Tourists in Myanmar” and that has been developed by the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.