Myanmar Sentences 3 to Prison for Depicting Buddha Wearing Headphones

Mar 24, 2015

Credit: Soe Than Win/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By Wai Moe and Austin Ramzy

 A bar manager from New Zealand and two Burmese men were sentenced to two years in prison in Myanmar on Tuesday for posting an image online of the Buddha wearing headphones, an effort to promote an event.

The court in Yangon said the image denigrated Buddhism and was a violation of Myanmar’s religion act, which prohibits insulting, damaging or destroying religion. “It is clear the act of the bar offended the majority religion in the country,” said the judge, U Ye Lwin.

The image was posted in December on the Facebook page of the VGastro bar and restaurant in Yangon. After an outcry from hard-line Buddhist groups, the police arrested the restaurant’s general manager, Philip Blackwood, 32, of New Zealand, along with the bar owner, U Tun Thurein, 40, and the manager, U Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26. The three have been held in Insein prison in Yangon.

In addition to the two-year prison term for violating the religion act, the three were also sentenced to six months for illegally operating a bar after 10 p.m. Mr. Blackwood said after the verdict that the men had expected they would be convicted.

The case has added to growing concerns about religious and ethnic intolerance in majority-Buddhist Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, where Muslims have faced increasing discrimination and violence. Hundreds of people were killed in sectarian violence in western and central Myanmar in 2012 and 2013. The country’s Parliament is also considering new laws that critics fear will be used to discriminate against minorities.

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19 comments on “Myanmar Sentences 3 to Prison for Depicting Buddha Wearing Headphones

  • -not serious enough Stafford

    It’s important to never treat any religious figure as though they were just human. Some go so far as to forbid even depicting their holy man. It’s probably assumed to be easier to avoid the occasional lustful thought about them that way…

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  • It really doesn’t matter which freakin’ deity you choose to believe in: it all brings to the exact same load of nonsensical violence.

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  • The irony is Gautama Buddha would have laughed instead of getting his tail in a knot.

    Many people think the Dalai Lama is the official spokesperson of the Buddha. He apparently has no problem with headphones. See photo 1/3 way down the page at

    It reminds be of a scene in a documentary about the Dalai Lama. The monks were handing out grass that was supposed to help in becoming enlightened. The villagers were bashing each other over the head to get a bigger share. The Dalai Lama gives priceless look to the camera.

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  • 7
    abusedbypenguins says:

    Headphones on a buddha gets 2 years a buddha vibrator is probably worth a public beheading. Religion; just so warm and fuzzy.

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  • Agree,
    Isn’t Buddism all about trying to ignore all the negative human emotions? How it is that they are therefore so offended by such a mild image? Would the Gautama have not worn headphones if they were available in his time?

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  • I seem to remember Steven Pinker arguing in “Angels of our better nature” that outside of war most violence occurs because of the concept of honour. A surprising percentage of murders are perpetrated because the killer feels they have been dishonoured – from their point of view it is a justified execution.

    Given that MRI scans show that the religious view their deity as reflections of their own ego (the same bits fire when they think of themselves and think of their god but not when they think of others) its easy to see a major cause of religious aggression and intolerance. Remember this when you ridicule a religious idea to someones face – psychologically they feel this as a personal slight, which is why atheists are often viewed as hateful just for rejecting what they believe.

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  • One must step back in awe for the suffering steeped on others by narrow-minded Authority, for Authority is only maintained through violence. The insane victimization of these men is an example of man’s cruelty and ignorance, but it is the Far East, go figure. That is not to say the West is any the better.

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  • I’ve always thought that Buddhism was a loving and peaceful religion. Who cares if he wears headphones? Get a life already people.

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  • I’ve always thought that Buddhism was a loving and peaceful religion.

    Not actually a religion. See below. What is interesting is that homo sapiens, even though they know, or should know with a little bit of research, that Buddha is not a god, and didn’t want to be a god. But never get between a religious brain and a deity. Here in Burma, they are treating Buddha the same way the extremist Muslim treats Mohammed. Sacred. KILL THE BLASPHEMER. Buddha would be tearing strips off these Burmese religious nutters.

    Report card for Homo Sapiens. “A bright student but failed to reach his true potential. “

    Buddhism /ˈbudɪzəm/[1][2] is a nontheistic religion[3][4] or dharma, “right way of living”, that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha, commonly known as the Buddha (“the awakened one”). According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.[3] He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end their suffering through the elimination of ignorance and craving. Buddhists believe that this is accomplished through direct understanding and the perception of dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is the attainment of the sublime state of Nirvana, by practicing the Noble Eightfold Path (also known as the Middle Way).[5]

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