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NZ bar manager arrested in Myanmar over promo showing Buddha wearing headphones

(Photo: Yangon Police)

December 12, 2014

YANGON -- A New Zealand bar manager is due to appear in a Myanmar court on Thursday after he was arrested for allegedly insulting religion by using an image of the Buddha wearing headphones in a promotion, the police said.

The promotional poster, which appeared on the bar's Facebook page, sparked outrage on social media in the predominantly Buddhist nation, which has seen a surge in religious nationalism in recent months.

General manager Philip Blackwood, 32, owner Tun Thurein, 40, and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26, were detained for police questioning on Wednesday and the bar was shuttered after a complaint by an official from Myanmar's Religious Department, the police said.

The posting for the newly opened V Gastro bar, a tapas restaurant and nightclub in a Yangon embassy area, showed a psychedelic mock-up of the Buddha wearing DJ headphones to trail a cheap drinks night this Sunday. "According to Mr Philip's statement, they were trying to promote the bar. Buddha grabs people's interest... however Buddhists cannot accept it," a police official in Yangon's Bahan township told reporters late on Wednesday.

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