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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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Holi being celebrated in Terai today

Gorkha Post



Tourists enjoying Holi at Themel, Kathmandu on Thursday. RSS photo

KATHMANDU — Holi, the festival of colors, is being celebrated in various Tarai districts on Friday, a day after it was celebrated in hills and Kathmandu valley by exchanging wishes and smearing colourful powders and throwing colours and water-filled balloons at each other.

Holi is regarded as one of the most important festivals in the southern plains where the locals invite friends and relatives in their houses and serve them delicious food on the occasion.

People have descended on the streets and celebrated the festival, spraying each other with colours and water.

There is the mythology of the demon king Hiranya Kashyapu releted to the Holi celebration, who had ordered his sister Holika to enter into a fire along with Pralhad, son of the demon king and a devout follower of Lord Bishnu, in her lap so that Pralhad would stop chanting the name of the lord.

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The catch was that Holika wouldn’t burn in the fire because of a boon she had received from god. But it so happened that the fire burnt Holika whereas Pralhad remained unharmed and came out of the fire still chanting the name of god. Therefore, the festival has been linked to this legend and is celebrated by smearing colour in enjoyment.

Meanwhile, Police have arrested 167 persons from across Kathmandu Valley for allegedly misbehaving with strangers and passers-by on the pretext of Holi festival today. According to police, those arrested for playing Holi in an indecent manner will be charged under Public Crime and Punishment Act, 1970 upon necessary screening and profiling of the suspects.

Similarly, 523 motorcyclists faced action for violating traffic rules and driving under the influence.

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