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Myanmar doctor jailed for insulting religion

Kyaw Win Thant sentenced to 21 months on charges of insulting Buddhism amid a debate over sex education

John Zaw, Mandalay

John Zaw, Mandalay

Updated: June 03, 2020 09:31 AM GMT
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Myanmar doctor jailed for insulting religion

Kyaw Win Thant leaves court in Mandalay on June 2 after being sentenced to 21 months in prison for insulting Buddhism. (Photo: AFP)

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A Myanmar doctor has been jailed for insulting religion after criticizing conservative monks who oppose a proposal to put sex education on the school syllabus.

On June 2, a township court in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, ordered a prison term for the physician after he was found guilty of insulting religion.

He was sentenced to 21 months in jail, according to media reports.

Kyaw Win Thant, 31, was charged under sections 294 and 295 of the penal code that prohibit insulting a person’s religion and carries a two-year jail term.

The doctor, who is himself a Buddhist, was arrested in Meikhtila, central Myanmar, on May 21 following his criticism on Facebook of conservative monks who oppose the government’s plan to teach sex education in schools.

While he was apologizing to monks for deriding them on social media, hundreds of people who had come to the monastery denounced the physician and chanted “arrest him.”

He was then sent to Mandalay for security reasons and charged.

In his Facebook posts, he allegedly used language deemed offensive to conservative monks and questioned their judgment of the sex education proposal.

“Buddhist monks who complain about the curriculum have no idea about sex education, but they do all the same things that laypeople do, including betting and watching porn movies,” he wrote on Facebook on May 19.

Ashin Ariya Wun Tha Bhiwun Sa, a Mandalay-based monk, said monks need to be tolerant of criticism as Buddha teaches us to be patient.

“The so-called nationalist monks have opposed sex education, but they are not aware of it. Their objection is politically motivated as they oppose Aung San Suu Kyi’s government,” Ashin Bhiwun Sa, who is involved in interfaith activities, told UCA News.

Sex education has been fiercely debated on Facebook, the country’s main social media platform, but it remains taboo in the conservative Buddhist-majority country where monks have long been an influential source of moral guidance.

Sex education has broad support from women’s groups, activists and young people but is largely opposed by nationalists, conservatives and many parents.

The Education Ministry recently announced that it has been reviewing the sex education curriculum following the complaints.

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