Three men on trial for 'insulting' Buddhism in Myanmar



A line of Buddha statues on Sagaing Hill, Myanmar
A man from New Zealand and two Burmese men have gone on trial in Myanmar, charged with insulting Buddhism.
The trio, who worked at the V Gastro Bar in Yangon, were arrested last week after posting an online advertisement showing a psychedelic image of Buddha wearing headphones.
The image, which shows a neon pink Buddha wearing DJ-style headphones, was posted on the bar's Facebook page, and quickly spread online. The words alongside advertised a drinks afternoon with limitless alcohol and shisha pipes, the BBC reports.
Police arrested Philip Blackwood last Wednesday, Dec. 10, along with two Myanmar nationals, including the bar's owner, Tun Thurein, and an employee. Authorities then shut the tapas bar and lounge, which had opened just two weeks earlier in an upscale Yangon neighbourhood.
New Zealand citizen Philip Blackwood, left,is escorted by a Myanmar police officer following a court appearance Thursday, Dec.18, 2014, in Yangon, Myanmar.

New Zealand citizen Philip Blackwood, left, is escorted by a Myanmar police officer following a court appearance Thursday, Dec.18, 2014, in Yangon, Myanmar.
IMAGE: KHIN MAUNG WIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS
An official from the Religious Department filed a complaint that led to the arrests, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to the media.
The image has been removed from the Facebook page and replaced by an apology. 
"Our intention was never to cause offence to anyone," the apology says. "Our ignorance is embarrassing."

The trial could take up to six months and the three could face up to two years in jail.
The arrests come amid a surge of religious nationalism in Myanmar following violence between Buddhists and Muslims in recent years.




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