Phil Blackwood en route to New Zealand after release

YANGON — Phil Blackwood, the New Zealand bar manager sent to Insein Prison in a 2015 religious offence case, left Myanmar on Thursday and is en route to Wellington, according to New Zealand officials.  

Mr Blackwood, along with his co-defendants Tun Thurein and Htut Ko Ko Lwin, were officially pardoned by a presidential amnesty on January 22. Until Thursday morning, Mr Blackwood was held in Insein Prison until arrangements could be made for his deportation from the country.

“Mr Blackwood departed Myanmar today, on flights arranged by his family,” a spokesman for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Frontier. “The New Zealand Embassy in Yangon accompanied Mr Blackwood to the airport from the prison, to help facilitate departure logistics.”

The three men, all senior managers at the V Gastro Bar in Yangon’s Bahan Township, were arrested at the end of 2014 and charged under the religious offence provisions of the Penal Code for the publication of a promotional flyer depicting the Buddha wearing headphones.

Media reports from Australia and New Zealand earlier this week claimed that officials from Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection had blocked the transit of Mr Blackwood through Sydney.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Speaking to Coconuts Yangon on Wednesday, Mr. Blackwood’s father said the reports were based on a misunderstanding, adding that he would seek to clear up any misunderstanding from Australian officials.

Another 99 people were released on January 22 from prisons across the country as part of the presidential amnesty. State-run media reported the pardon was to commemorate the conclusion of the first Union Peace Conference.

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar