Myanmar Judge Sentences Dutchman Klaas Haytema to Three Months in Prison for Unplugging Monks PA System

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Klass Haytema being escorted by Burmese police after a court appearance
Klass Haytema being escorted by Burmese police after being sentenced to three months

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MANDALAY – A Myanmar court on Thursday sentenced Dutch National Klaas Haytema to three months in prison and a fine after he unplugged a public address system that was relaying a Buddhist sermon, his lawyer said.

Klaas Haytema, 30, was arrested after he entered a community hall in the central city of Mandalay on Sept 23 and disrupted a recitation by Buddhist laymen.

Mr Haytema told a court hearing on Tuesday he was unaware a religious ceremony was in progress, but disconnected the hall’s loudspeakers because they were disturbing his sleep, said Hla Ko, a Myanmar lawyer who volunteered to represent the Dutchman.

Sermons broadcast through the night using loudspeakers are a common practice in the Southeast Asian country, where the vast majority of people are Buddhists.

A judge convicted Mr Haytema of “causing disturbance to an assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship,” Hla Ko told Reuters.

“He was found guilty under Section 296 of the Penal Code and sentenced to three months in prison,” the lawyer said, adding that a fine of about $80 was also paid on Mr Haytema’s behalf for breaching Myanmar’s rules on respecting its culture.

“I plan to lodge an appeal for him against the verdict,” Hla Ko added.

By Aung Hla Tun | REUTERS

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