Dutch Tourist Jailed in Myanmar for Pulling Plug on Buddhist Sermon
PHOTO: Kuthodaw Pagoda in Mandalay, Myanmar. (Photo via Flickr/Paul Arps)
A Dutch tourist has been sentenced to three months in prison in Myanmar, but not for theft, assault or any other serious crime.
According to the Associated Press, 30-year-old Klaas Haytema received jail time for interfering with a religious observance in Myanmar's second-largest city, Mandalay, when he unplugged a loudspeaker playing a Buddhist sermon late at night near his hotel last month.
"I was really tired that night and woke up to the noise," he told the court, per the New York Times. "I was very angry and assumed that children were playing music. I told them to lower the volume of the loudspeakers before I unplugged the amplifier, and they didn’t understand me. That’s why I unplugged it."
Haytema was arrested after a crowd gathered outside of his hotel. A man reciting the sermon later pressed charges against the visitor.
"We could not negotiate peacefully because people were angry, so we called the police to control the situation," community leader Chit San told the AP. "We actually didn't want him to get arrested."
Adding insult to injury, Haytema, who apologized after learning the speakers were playing a religious sermon, was fined roughly $100 for violating visa regulations requiring him to respect the local culture.
Despite the seemingly harsh punishment, it appears Haytema got off somewhat easy. He could have faced up to two years in prison, per the AP, but the judge decided to "show mercy."
It remains to be seen whether Haytema will appeal the sentence.
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