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Myanmar court jails New Zealand bar manager for insulting Buddhist faith

Gorkha Post




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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Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wins presidency

Gorkha Post



MALE — Maldives opposition legislator Ibrahim Mohamed Solih has beaten incumbent Abdulla Yameen according to provisional results, the country’s Elections Commission says.

Results released by the Elections Commission showed Mr Solih securing 133,808 votes (58.3 percent) compared to the 95,526 for incumbent Abdulla Yameen. The voter turnout was over 88 per cent out of the 262,000-strong electorate.

The Maldives government has acknowledged the opposition’s victory after the vote on Sunday, a surprise defeat for President Abdulla Yameen who was widely expected to win.

There were no other candidates.

Mr Solih had the backing of a united opposition trying to oust Mr Yameen, but struggled for visibility with the electorate, with local media fearful of falling afoul of heavy-handed decrees and reporting restrictions.

“I call on Yameen to respect the will of the people and bring about a peaceful, smooth transfer of power,” Solih said on television, shortly after interim results from the country’s election commission.

“We have won this election with a comfortable majority,” Solih said.

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