The military-ruled state is known for sometimes violent religious and ethnic intolerance, as well as restrictions on freedom of press and speech.
A Swiss citizen was arrested in military-ruled Myanmar for creating a film that allegedly insulted Buddhism, state media reported Saturday.
Didier Nusbaumer, 52, was arrested on August 8th along with 13 Myanmar nationals, including a 12-year-old girl, Myanma Alinn newspaper said.
The report did not say where any of the suspects were being held.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar has been ruled by its army since February 2021, when it seized power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Insulting Buddhism is a punishable offence in Myanmar, where religious nationalism has surged in recent years. About 90% of the country’s residents are Buddhist.
The news report said that Nusbaumer wrote, filmed and edited the 75-minute movie “Don’t Expect Anything,” which was posted on YouTube on July 24th. Short clips from the movie spread on social media including on TikTok and Facebook, drawing rebukes from Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar.
“Although the people in the film’s main roles are Buddhist, they behaved inappropriately and degraded the dignity and morals of monks through their physical gestures and dialogue,” the media report said.
Nusbaumer is not the first foreigner to be detained in Myanmar after being accused of insulting Buddhism.
In March 2015, a New Zealand citizen who was arrested with two Myanmar nationals was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment with hard labor for insulting Buddhism in an online advertisement that showed a psychedelic depiction of Buddha wearing DJ-style headphones. He was deported the following year.
In October 2016, a Dutch tourist was jailed for three months with hard labor for insulting Buddhism after he unplugged a loudspeaker used by Buddhist monks to broadcast a late-night sermon in the country’s second-largest city, Mandalay. He was deported after serving his jail term.
In the same year, a Spanish tourist was deported from Myanmar after authorities found a tattoo of Buddha on his leg.