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Myanmar court jails New Zealand bar manager for insulting Buddhist faith

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YANGON –

A New Zealand bar manager and his two Myanmar associates have been sentenced to two and half years in jail by a Yangon court for using a Buddha picture to promote a cheap drinks night.

New Zealander Phil Blackwood, bar manager Htut Ko Lwin and bar owner Tun Thurein had all pleaded not guilty. They were sentenced to jail with labor, the court said on Tuesday.

Philip Blackwood, who worked at the VGastro bar in Yangon, was found guilty of insulting religion along with the bar’s Myanmar owner and manager, after the New Zealander posted the offending mock up photograph of the Buddha wearing DJ earphones.

They were held responsible for protest that erupted outside the bar over the picture.

Judge Ye Lwin said that in spite of the fact that Blackwood, 32, posted an apology he had “intentionally plotted to insult religious conviction” when he uploaded the photo.

He added that it was “unreasonable only to blame the foreigner” when explaining the guilty verdicts for 40-year-old bar owner Tun Thurein and manager Htut Ko Lwin, 26.

The image ad, posted on Facebook in December, triggered outrage in the former junta-ruled country, where surging Buddhist patriotism and religious violence has parked international concern.

Rights groups condemned the decision as an attack on freedom of expression and called the trio’s release.

“The authorities are clearly attempting to make an example with this case, but ironically all it has done is hurt the image of Myanmar and Buddhism,” said Matt Smith, executive director of the Bangkok-based group Fortify Rights.

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Warm clothes provided to elderly, disabled people of Gorkha

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GORKHA- Warm clothes have been distributed to elderly and disabled people at Bhimsen Thapa Rural Municipality-7 in the district.

The rural municipality provided clothes including blankets to 217 elderly people and 23 people with disabilities within the ward. The clothes distribution aims to help the people overcome chilling cold, said the ward chairperson Narayan Shrestha.

“Many people affected by the earthquake of April, 2015 have been living in temporary shelters. Mostly elderly and disabled people have been affected by cold. So the clothes we have provided will give a relief to them,” he said.

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