Parents eagerly await release of Kiwi in Myanmar

  • 24/01/2016
Philip Blackwood (Reuters)
Philip Blackwood (Reuters)

The parents of a Kiwi jailed in Myanmar for insulting Buddha say they won't feel complete relief over his release until he's on a plane headed home.

Philip Blackwood, a 32-year-old former Wellingtonian, was found guilty of insulting religion in Myanmar by using an image of the Buddha wearing headphones on Facebook to promote the bar he managed.

He has spent more than a year in prison but was this week put on an amnesty list, which will allow him to be released.

Blackwood's mother, Angela, told NZ Newswire they were ecstatic to hear of his release, but were now in the dark about when he would return.

"It could be within the next few days or it could take up to a week. But at the moment we're in limbo about when he will actually arrive home," she said.

"I can't feel it's going to happen until he's on the plane. Then we'll breathe a huge sigh of relief."

She said the amnesty had taken them completely by surprise.

"It's been a nightmare really. We've done everything we could to shorten his sentence and then this came completely out of the blue."

Ms Blackwood said his passport had been lost, which was complicating the process.

Philip Blackwood and his two Myanmar co-accused were all sentenced to more than two years with hard labour when they appeared in a Yangon court last March.

The poster, which appeared in 2014 on the Facebook page of the newly opened Yangon bar, sparked outrage on social media in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Bar general manager Blackwood, bar owner Tun Thurein, 40, and manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 26, were arrested and charged with breaching the Religion Act.