Dutch Tourist Sentenced to Three Months in Prison, 100,000 Kyats Fine

By Lawi Weng 6 October 2016

RANGOON – A court in Mandalay’s Maha Aung Myay Township sentenced a Dutch tourist to three months in prison and a fine of 100,000 kyats [US$79] for violating immigration law and disturbing a religious ceremony on Thursday.

U Hla Ko, the defendant’s lawyer, told The Irrawaddy that the court sentenced 30-year-old Klaas Haijtema at 2 p.m. local time under Section 296 of Burma’s Penal Code and under Section 13.1 of the Immigration Act.

“On one charge he was sentenced to three months imprisonment under the Penal Code and on another charge he was fined 100,000 kyats under the Immigration Act,” U Hla Ko said. “We are appealing the court’s decision.”

Haijtema, from Holland, visited Burma as a tourist but had a case filed against him after he unplugged an amplifier used to enhance a Dhamma recitation by Buddhist devotees at the township’s Dhamma Yone community hall on Sept. 25. Haijtema was staying at the hotel opposite the hall.

The plaintiffs said the Dutch man did not take off his shoes when he entered the holy site and that he removed the wires from the PA system, disrupting the recitation that was held to mark the eve of a Buddhist Sabbath day.

Originally the tourist was charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class.” However, on Thursday the charge was changed to Section 296 which prohibits “disturbing religious assembly.”

“He did not insult religion, he only disturbed religion. Therefore, the court changed the charge,” said Haijtema’s lawyer.

Klaas Haijtema is currently detained at Obo Prison in Mandalay.