Kiwi jailed for insulting Buddha in Myanmar

NEW Zealander Phil Blackwood has been found guilty in Myanmar of offending religion.

This comes after Blackwood and two locals were charged in December for distributing a flyer for their V Gastro Bar, featuring a picture of Buddha wearing headphones.

At court in Myanmar's former capital Yangon yesterday, he and his two co-accused were all sentenced to two years in prison.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Blackwood told reporters he would appeal the decision.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Massey University's Professor Peter Lineham said anyone would be "stupid" to insult Buddhism, in a majority Buddhist country.

Mr Lineham said there were about 20 countries of various religions that "very strongly enforce" religious rules and would repress minorities.

"Most of them are Islamic but there are some Christian countries where you would get into severe trouble, for example some orthodox countries and some Catholic countries, are very very tough on religious insults."

Mr Lineham said he did not excuse the "viciousness" that has been shown in Myanmar, and called it "atrocious", but said New Zealanders needed to be more understanding of other cultures' religion.

"I do think we have grown up in a culture where we imagine everything is there to laugh at... but that's not true in other countries and probably it shouldn't be true in our country."

According to Myanmar law, anyone who attempts to insult, destroy or damage any religion can be punished by a maximum of two years in jail, with another two-year penalty for those who try to insult religion through the written word.

Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country, has had a number of recent outbreaks of religious violence, with minority Muslims among the targets.

 


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