Mynamar jails three men for blasphemy

Mynamar jails three men for blasphemy

Philip Blackwood, the Mynamar bar manager who outraged Buddhists last year by posting a picture online of The Fat Guy wearing a pair of headphones, has been jailed for two years.

A  court in Yangon said the image, used to promote New Zealander Blackwood’s VGastro bar and restaurant, denigrated Buddhism and was a violation of Myanmar’s religion act, which prohibits insulting, damaging or destroying religion. Said judge, U Ye Lwin:

It is clear the act of the bar offended the majority religion in the country.


The image was posted in December on the Facebook page of the VGastro in Yangon. After an outcry from hard-line Buddhist groups, the police arrested Blackwood, 32, along with the bar owner, U Tun Thurein, 40, and a second employee, U Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26. The three have been held in Insein prison in Yangon.

In addition to the two-year prison term imposed on each of the men, the three were also sentenced to six months for illegally operating a bar after 10 pm.

Blackwood said after the verdict that the men had expected they would be convicted.

Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, who is based in Bangkok, called the verdict “outrageous”

This is a clear instance of criminalizing free expression. This will resonate in a very significant, negative way internationally when people decide how to engage with Burma.

The three convicted men faced possible prison terms of as long as four years in connection with the image. The image was quickly removed, and the bar issued an apology, saying it had not intended to cause offense.

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.

In 2010, a Buddha Bar in Jakarta, Indonesia – part of a franchise – was forced to close after protests from Buddhists there.

Myanmar will hold a general election this fall, and rights groups say the blasphemy conviction is an indicator that the government is pandering to hard-line Buddhist groups to win votes.

Said Robertson:

Not only is this a rights violation, but this is very ill advised from a political and social perspective. Burma is heading into dangerous territory.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

12 responses to “Mynamar jails three men for blasphemy”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    Yet another horrifying, shameful example that religiots in some parts of the world still has the power to silence anyone who dares to cross that invisible line which only they seem able to see. And yet another example that their beliefs are so transparently false and utterly ludicrous that they have to resort to locking people up in some hell-hole of a jail for years in order to deter even the most innocent of criticisms/offences.

  2. Broga says:

    This sentence does more damage to Buddhism than to the victims of this vindictive nonsense. I had some respect for some aspects of Buddhism, particularly Zen, but whatever was there is eroding fast.

  3. 1859 says:

    The sort of sub-text to this is that religion – of whatever stripe – somehow essentially underpins a society’s stability. So that if religion is removed or criticised, all social order will collapse and anarchy and mayhem will scream into the vacuum left by the absence of religion. If only the people who believe this nonesense could look around the world and see how much suffering and conflict is caused by religion, they may, perhaps, come to see that a society WITHOUT religion would be shedding a lot less blood.

  4. Insein Prison? You couldn’t make it up.

  5. zombiehunter says:

    but like bhuddism isn’t a religion maaaaan it’s like a totally easy going philosophy unlike islam and Christianity innit.

    seriously though fuck bhuddism its just another bullshit religion that puts faith above reason.

  6. sailor1031 says:

    How can there be blasphemy in buddhism? Have these morons in Burma (fuck that Myanmar BS) any knowledge of Buddhism? No I thought not. There should be NO ideas that cannot be explored in Buddhism. Altho re ZH above – there are many who call themselves buddhist (the Dalai Lama for instance) who are actually totally unenlightened and have no idea what Sakyamuni was talking about.

  7. Me says:

    There is an eclipse today. Watch it and marvel for a few minutes. Then have a think about whether or not the universe will be any different after the last person on earth kills the second to last person on earth because she / he has a different religion.

  8. Me says:

    Religion….the tool by which the devious exert power over the masses.

    Religion … the tool by which lawless gangs of thugs justify murder.

    Religion … the tool by which mankind destroyed itself

  9. Maggie says:

    Buddhism used to be seen more as a philosophy. Then its followers realised that if it was a full-blown religion, there were tax breaks to be had (and in the UK a religion has be monotheistic for the tax breaks, hence Buddha is no longer a ‘founder’ but a god). And now Buddhism is like other religions, vying for victimhood, butting into politics, and bullying non-believers.

  10. Angela_K says:

    @Me. The eclipse has been and gone but the World hasn’t ended as predicted by various religious fruitcakes; I bet they feel a bit stupid now – hang on, they are stupid.

  11. Me says:

    Angela …you missed the point didn’t you. And the pious are too stupid to feel stupid by the way.

  12. dennis says:

    Alas, budda is a god, what a travesty Burma. good luck to the Insein 3.
    We could not see the celestial beauty in the states, but knowing it happen was reaffirming of reason logic and science hu @me and @Angela_K