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Three Men Jailed In Myanmar For Using Buddha Image To Promote A Bar

A New Zealander and two Myanmar nationals will each serve two and a half years in jail for insulting religion after using Buddha's image on a poster to promote a drinks event.

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New Zealander Philip Blackwood and two Myanmar nationals were sentenced to two and a half years in prison each over a poster promoting a drinks event which depicted Buddha wearing headphones, the BBC reported.

Soe Than Win / Getty Images

Philip Blackwood, a bar manager from New Zealand, is escorted by police as he arrives in court in Yangon, Jan. 22.

Mr Blackwood, who worked as a manager at the VGastro bar in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, faced up to four years in jail for violating the Religion Act. Tun Thurein, the bar owner, and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, were also facing the same charge, according to The New Zealand Herald.

Amnesty International New Zealand told BuzzFeed News that the sentences should be overturned immediately:

"The conviction and prison sentence handed down today against two managers and the owner of a bar in Myanmar for displaying an image of the Buddha wearing headphones should be overturned immediately and is a chilling indication of the growing climate of religious intolerance in the country."

Before entering the court to hear his sentence Mr Blackwood told the BBC: "Hopefully a bit of justice is going to happen."

The case has brought the growing influence of Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar's everyday life to the fore, as extremist monks grow in popularity, according to the BBC.

Tensions between the majority Buddhist population and the country's Muslim minority have been rising recently.

Ye Aung Thu / Getty Images

July 4, 2014: Monks in Yangon carry posters of "take action immediately against Jihad fundamentalists."

Myanmar emerged from the grip of 49 years of military rule in 2011, but outbreaks of violence between the two groups have rocked the country in recent years, causing concern among the international community.

Felipe Araujo is the overnight homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Felipe Araujo at felipe.araujo@BuzzFeed.com.

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