Burma Jails Tourist for Unplugging Speaker

It just happened to be blasting a Buddhist sermon
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 7, 2016 9:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – A Burma court sentenced a Dutch citizen to three months in prison Thursday for interfering with a religious observance in a most unusual way: He unplugged an amplifier blasting a late-night Buddhist sermon near his hotel in Mandalay. Klaas Haytema, 30, in handcuffs, wept with his girlfriend before he left for jail, reports the AP. He had been arrested in late September after a crowd gathered around his hotel in protest when the loudspeakers at a nearby religious hall were turned off. A community leader said he "didn't want [Haytema] to get arrested" but called police when tempers flared. The man who was reciting the sermon pressed charges against Haytema.

It is common for Buddhist groups to broadcast sermons by loudspeaker at very high volumes in Mandalay, the cultural capital of the predominantly Buddhist country. Local media reported that Haytema apologized and said he hadn't known the loudspeakers were broadcasting religious content. He was also fined about $100 for violating visa regulations requiring him to respect the culture. Haytema could have been sentenced to up to two years in prison for insulting religion, but the judge said he opted to find him guilty of a lesser charge to "show mercy." It's unclear if Haytema will file an appeal. (A Burmese bar owner, since freed, was jailed over a Facebook post.)

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