A Myanmar court has sentenced a Dutch man to three months in prison for unplugging an amplifier at a late-night Buddhist sermon near his hotel in Mandalay.
30-year-old Klass Haytema was sentenced on Thursday to an additional six months prison sentence for violating immigration rules requiring respect for local culture, but has opted to pay the fine of about $80.
Haytema was arrested in late September after a crowd gathered around his hotel in protest when the loudspeakers at a nearby religious hall were turned off. The man who at the time of the incident was reciting the sermon, pressed charges against Haytema.
Sources said that Haytema could have faced up to two years in prison for insulting religion in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Haytema told the judge at the hearing, “I did not do it with intention. I didn’t know it was a religious building. So, I am not guilty.”
Three witnesses told the court that this was Haytema’s first trip to Asia, and that he was unaware of the rules and practices of Buddhists in the country.
Prosecutors in the case said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Haytema is also said to not have removed his shoes before entering the temple.
Sources in the area said that the Buddhist centre is the one that actually broke the law as there is a standing order that prohibits the playing of loudspeakers between 9pm and 6am – that law however seems to have been overlooked in this case, and was steered more to the insult of the Buddhist religion.