Artists Freed After Anti-Buddhist Claims Dropped Against COVID-19 Mural in Myanmar

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 17 July 2020

Yangon – Three artists in Myanmar’s Kachin State charged with offending Buddhism in a COVID-19 awareness street mural were freed by the township court in the state capital, Myitkyina, on July 17.

They painted murals in Myitkyina’s streets to raise coronavirus awareness in late March.

One mural showed the Grim Reaper wearing red robes, spreading coronavirus while three medics try to save the planet.

In early April, pictures of the mural spread on social media, sparking criticism that the figure looked like a Buddhist monk.

Ko Naw Htun Aung, director of Kachinland Research Center, Cecilia Ja Seng and Ko Zayar Hnaung faced charges filed by the deputy director of the state’s Religious Office under Article 295(a) of the Penal Code on April 3.

The law states that deliberate and malicious attempts to spark outrage among any religious group through words, pictures or insults can result in up to two years in prison.

The three were freed after more than 12 court hearings over three months.

According to their lawyer, Daw Doi Bu, the charges were dropped after the three managed to prove the Grim Reaper carrying a pot was not supposed to be a Buddhist monk.

“The judge made a fair decision in our case,” said Daw Doi Bu.

Ko Naw Htun Aung, who organized the street art to raise COVID-19 awareness, told The Irrawaddy that they welcomed the decision.

The mural was painted over on April 3.

Artist Ko Zayar Hnaung explained that the skeleton wearing red robes and holding a pot filled with the virus was supposed to the personification of death.

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