VGastro Bar

The image triggered an angry response online shortly after it appeared on the bar’s Facebook page.

Three individuals associated with a bar in Myanmar (also called Burma) have been detained following an advertisement, which officials contend was offensive to Buddha.  New Zealand native and general manager Philip Blackwood, of V Gastro Bar in Yangon, posted a flyer on the bar’s Facebook page, which depicted Buddha wearing DJ-style headphones, and awash in vibrant colors, sporting the words “Buddha.bar.”

After noting the flyer’s contents, Myanmar authorities arrested Blackwood, along with his two Myanmar-based business partners, Htut Ko Ko Lwin and Tun Thurein.  The three are facing charges stemming from a law prohibiting the display of words and images that are deliberately offensive to religion.  The men are faced with fines and up to two years in jail.  There is no bail; the men have so far failed to secure representation due to the sensitive nature of the case.

Phil Robertson, the Asia director for the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch, contends the law is written in a vague manner, allowing extremists and authorities to abuse it for their own purposes.  Roberts has stated, “The practice and defense of religion has gone to a more extreme stage in Burma” and there has been “effective criminalization of expression of views that go against some of the more extreme forms of Buddhism.”

Only hours, after the flyer appeared on the bar’s Facebook page, it had thousands of shares on the social media website; observers on an international scale are perplexed by the reaction engendered by the flyer, which has now been removed and replaced by an apology.  While outside of Asia, Buddha has long been a popular decorative ornament in homes and gardens and on various clothing and jewelry, within Asia, such displays are considered offensive and even blasphemous in countries like Myanmar.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter