Asia

Myanmar jails tourist for unplugging speakers relaying sermon

Dutch citizen Klaas Haytema is escorted into a Myanmar court where he was sentenced to three months in prison for interfering with a religious observance, in Mandalay, Myanmar Image copyright AFP
Image caption Klaas Haytema is the latest foreigner to fall foul of Myanmar's strict laws protecting Buddhist ceremonies

A Dutch man wept as he was jailed for three months with hard labour in Myanmar for unplugging a loudspeaker.

Klaas Haytema, 30, pulled the plug on the late-night broadcast, which was relaying a Buddhist sermon, because it was disturbing his sleep.

He told the court that he had been unaware a religious service was taking place near his hotel in Mandalay.

Several foreigners have recently fallen foul of strict laws in Myanmar that protect Buddhist ceremonies.

'Insulting religion'

Delivering the ruling, a judge said Haytema was "clearly guilty" of insulting religion and was "sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour".

But he avoided another three months after opting instead to pay a fine of 100,000 kyat ($80) for violating the terms of his visa, which requires tourists to respect local customs.

Haytema, who was also accused of insulting Buddhism by not taking off his shoes when he entered the prayer hall, apologised during previous hearings, according to local media.

Slights against religion are treated with extreme seriousness by the courts and a pious public in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, previously known as Burma.

In July, a Spanish tourist was deported after monks complained about a tattoo of Buddha on his leg, while last year a New Zealand bar manager spent 10 months in jail for "insulting religion" by using a Buddha image to promote a cheap drinks night.

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