Kiwi held for 'insulting' Buddha image

A New Zealand bar manager has been detained in Burma for using an image of the Buddha wearing headphones in a promotion.

Police said the promotion was an insult to the Buddhist religion.

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

The Facebook 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, AFP reported.

"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 Wednesday.

"This insults the religion. So we opened the case under the Religion Act. We will file a lawsuit," he said, requesting not to be named.

The maximum penalty for attempting to insult, destroy or damage any religion is two years in jail, with another two-year penalty for those who attempt to insult religion through the written word.

Blackwood was due in a Yangon court where he might be charged and deported, a police official told AFP.

After a social media storm the bar deleted the post and wrote an apology on its Facebook page.

"VGastro management would like to express our sincere regret if we have offended the citizens of this wonderful city, who have welcomed us so warmly and generously," it said.

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"Our intention was never to cause offence to anyone or toward any religious group. Our ignorance is embarrassing."

Blackwood grew up in Tawa and studied commerce and science at Victoria University.

He worked as an engineer, including on the Supreme Court renovation, before the recession hit. He took a position at a Myanmar restaurant in 2010, before launching VGastro two weeks ago.

He and his partner, Noemi Stephannie Almo, and young daughter split their time between Myanmar and New Zealand.

A Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said they were aware of the arrest of Blackwood and were providing consular assistance to Blackwood and his family.

 - Stuff

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