A DUTCH citizen who sparked public outrage when he allegedly unplugged an amplifier used by Buddhist monks to broadcast a sermon, is now facing the prospect of jail time in Myanmar (Burma), local media reported.
According to The Myanmar Times, the 30-year-old Klaas Haytema from Wans in the Netherlands was charged in court Monday with insulting religion over his actions, which had allegedly disrupted a religious festival. Burma is largely a conservative Buddhist nation.
The alleged offence took place on Sept 23 outside a hotel where Haytema was staying near a religious community hall in Yadanar Bomme East ward of Maha Aung Myay township, Mandalay Region.
After the incident, an angry crowd reportedly gathered outside the hotel to demand the tourist’s surrender but soldiers stepped in to avoid mob justice. The crowd only dispersed when the authorities assured them that legal action would be taken against Haytema, Tourist Police Captain Hla Myint said.
“The foreigner has been detained in police custody because the immigration department and the head of the sermon recital team are pressing charges,” Hla was quoted as saying.
The charges were filed by U Kyaw San, who was delivering the sermon, and Haytema was investigated on charges of insult religious feelings or beliefs, and contravening Myanmar Immigration Law.
Hla was quoted by the Anadolu Agency as saying that the tourist had admitted to carrying out the act because he was upset by the noise.
“He said it is too late for such a noisy sermon, and he was really upset about it.”
Haytema faces up to two years in jail or a fine or both for the charges.
A resident of the ward, Ko Phone Myint: “In the three-month period of Buddhist lent, our ward recites sermons every night before the Sabbath day. The foreigner came and unplugged the cord connected to the amplifier.”
Insulting Buddhism is a serious offence in Burma. In July, a Spanish tourist was deported after his leg tattoo, depicting Buddha, was spotted at a popular tourist destination.
New Zealand native Philip Blackwood was found guilty in March 2015 of insulting Buddhism after a flyer promoting the bar he managed in Yangon depicting a psychedelic Buddha wearing headphones was posted on Facebook.
Blackwood was sentenced to two years and six months in prison, along with the bar’s owner Tun Thurein and another manager Htut Ko Ko Lwin, who are Burmese citizens. Blackwood was released earlier this year as part of a prisoner amnesty.
Report shared by the Asian Correspondant