World

Myanmar bar manager accused of insulting Buddhism

Dec. 11, 2014: New Zealand citizen Philip Blackwood, center, is escorted by Myanmar police officers following a court appearance in Yangon, Myanmar

Dec. 11, 2014: New Zealand citizen Philip Blackwood, center, is escorted by Myanmar police officers following a court appearance in Yangon, Myanmar  (AP)

A New Zealand bar manager in Myanmar has been arrested for allegedly insulting Buddhism after posting an online advertisement showing a psychedelic image of Buddha wearing headphones, police said Friday.

The offense carries a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Police arrested Philip Blackwood on Wednesday along with two Myanmar nationals, including the bar's owner, Tun Thurein, and an employee. Authorities then shut the V Gastro Bar, a tapas bar and lounge, which had opened just two weeks earlier in an upscale Yangon neighborhood.

The image, which shows a neon pink Buddha wearing DJ-style headphones, was posted on the bar's Facebook page, and quickly spread online. An official from the Religious Department filed a complaint that led to the arrests, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to the media.

The image has been removed from the Facebook page and replaced by an apology.

"Our intention was never to cause offense to anyone," the apology says. "Our ignorance is embarrassing."

The arrests come amid a surge of religious nationalism in Myanmar following violence between Buddhists and Muslims in recent years.

The three men are due to appear in court next week.