Tears flow as pardoned Kiwi Phil Blackwood arrives home

New Zealander Phil Blackwood had an emotional reunion with his family when he returned home on January 29, a week after being pardoned in a presidential amnesty for 102 prisoners.

Mr Blackwood, 34, who had spent 13 months in Yangon’s Insein prison, was embraced by family members after arriving in the New Zealand capital, Wellington.

Jail had been very difficult, he said, holding his daughter, Sasha, 16 months.

“I slept on a wooden pallet for 13 months and every night when I went to sleep, I never wished for a softer bed. I just wished for my family,” online news site stuff.co.nz quoted him as saying.

Mr Blackwood, the former general manager of the V Gastro Bar, its owner U Tun Thurein, 42, and manager Ko Htut Ko Ko Lwin, 28, were detained on charges of insulting religion and disobeying a public servant in December 2014. They were sentenced the following March to two-and-a-half years in prison, including two years with hard labour for insulting religion.

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

The charges followed the posting on social media of a psychedelic image of the Buddha wearing headphones to promote a cheap drinks night at the newly-opened Bahan Township bar, which has closed.

The promotion drew an angry reaction on social media. It was quickly removed from the bar’s Facebook page and replaced by an apology that expressed sincere regret on behalf of the management.

Mr Blackwood arrived in Wellington after landing in Auckland, where he was reunited with his father after a direct flight from Bangkok.

Mr Blackwood left Insein for Yangon International Airport on January 28 amid confusion over the reason for his delayed release from prison, including reports that his passport had been lost.

It was unclear why Mr Blackwood did not travel home via Australia. Had he stopped over there he would have been required, as a foreigner who has spent time in jail because of a criminal conviction, to apply for a visa.

By Frontier

By Frontier

In-depth, unbiased coverage of Myanmar in an era of transition. Our fortnightly English language print magazine is published every other Thursday, with daily news updates online.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Respect the election result, but don’t gloss over the flaws
The large turnout on November 8 powerfully demonstrated society’s commitment to democracy, but this should not overshadow deep flaws in the electoral process that threaten to undermine future progress.
Image, strategy and friends with money: How the NLD did it again
Trust in Aung San Suu Kyi, a tight social media strategy and help from business leaders were among the factors behind the National League for Democracy’s landslide election win.

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

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

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