Foreign Office 'abandons' Briton jailed in Burma over picture of Buddha wearing headphones to promote his bar 

  • Phil Blackwood was sentenced to two-and-a-half years with hard labour
  • Posted the mocked-up image advertising a cheap drinks night on Facebook
  • 32-year-old was found guilty of insulting religion despite apologising

A Briton jailed in Burma for using an image of the Buddha to promote his bar has been ‘abandoned’ by the Foreign Office, according to human rights campaigners.

Phil Blackwood was sentenced to two-and-a-half years with hard labour by a Burmese court last month after posting the mocked-up image of the Buddha wearing DJ headphones on Facebook.

The tongue-in-cheek advert for a cheap-drinks night at the VGastro bar in Rangoon provoked outrage among devout Buddhists.

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Phil Blackwood (left) was sentenced to two-and-a-half years with hard labour by a Burmese court last month after posting a mocked-up image of Buddha wearing DJ headphones on Facebook. Human rights campaigners claim he has been 'abandoned' by the Foreign Office

Phil Blackwood (left) was sentenced to two-and-a-half years with hard labour by a Burmese court last month after posting a mocked-up image of Buddha wearing DJ headphones on Facebook. Human rights campaigners claim he has been 'abandoned' by the Foreign Office

The 32-year-old bar manager, who has dual New Zealand and British nationality, was found guilty of insulting religion along with the bar’s Burmese owner and another manager, despite apologising profusely for posting the picture.

All three were given the same sentence. MPs and human rights campaigners said Mr Blackwood, who is married with a young daughter, is enduring appalling conditions in the notorious Insein prison. 

They also claimed the British Government had ‘turned its back’ on Mr Blackwood, who lived in Middlesbrough until his family moved to New Zealand when he was four.

The 32-year-old bar manager, who has dual New Zealand and British nationality, was found guilty of insulting religion because of this picture

The 32-year-old bar manager, who has dual New Zealand and British nationality, was found guilty of insulting religion because of this picture

In a Commons answer, a Foreign Office Minister admitted he was not aware Mr Blackwood was a British citizen.

Last night, his father Brian insisted that the family had informed the British authorities of his son’s dual nationality after his arrest. Although New Zealand diplomats were taking the lead, he said that the family expected the Foreign Office to exert pressure on Burma.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said: 'Philip Blackwood has been unjustly imprisoned for an honest mistake for which he has already issued a heartfelt apology. 

'As a British citizen, rather than turning their back on Mr Blackwood, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be pulling every available leaver to secure his immediate and unconditional release so that he can return to his family.'

There is international concern over a surge of religious nationalism in Burma, ruled until recently by a military junta.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: ‘Our ambassador in Burma made clear that we were following the case closely when he raised it with the Burmese Minister of the Presidency.

‘Our embassy in Rangoon has provided advice and support to the New Zealanders on Mr Blackwood’s case.’

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