RANGOON – The use of loudspeakers requires prior approval of local administrators and unlawful use is punishable under the existing Ward or Village Tract Administration Law, according to the Burma Police Force.
“If a speaker is loud enough to cause a public nuisance it needs approval and there are legal punishments for violation,” Col. Zaw Win Aung, a spokesperson of the Burma Police Force Police, told The Irrawaddy. “Playing music through normal speakers is OK as long as they do not disturb others.”
Under the Ward or Village Tract Administration Law, an application to use a loudspeaker must be submitted three days in advance stating the purpose, date, and time of use. Failure to do so is punishable with a fine of up to 5,000 kyats or up to seven days in prison.
A by-law of the provision states loudspeakers are only allowed between 6am and 9pm to avoid causing public nuisance.
U Nay Myo Kyaw, a minister of the Magwe Division government, said the Ward or Village Tract Administration Law enacted under the previous government granted authority of loudspeaker use to administrators, but that the law is usually only applied to political campaigns.
“I have seen people engaged in politics prosecuted by the government under the provision regarding the use of loudspeakers,” he said. “In some cases administrators give impunity to those who they get on well with but apply the law to those who they don’t see eye to eye with. This is not fair.”
U Nay Myo Kyaw also said that for the sake of rule of law, citizens should complain to the concerned authorities if they are disturbed by noise pollution.
In Burma, loudspeakers are often used for religious occasions such as reciting religious verses and alms-giving to Buddhist monks during Buddhist Lent and other donation ceremonies.
Despite the law prohibiting loudspeakers, citizens rarely complain to administrators and the law is not often applied. The country’s loudspeaker culture is an old custom within Burmese society, Daw Zin Mar Aung, Lower House lawmaker representing Rangoon’s Yankin Township, told The Irrawaddy.
“Personally, I don’t like [loudspeakers]. They are too noisy,” said Daw Zin Mar Aung. “This conflict will continue,” she said. “The best option is to follow the wishes of the majority, but there will always be some people who continue to use loudspeakers.”
Dr. Htet Aung, an official at the Ministry of Health and Sports in Naypyidaw, said though he loves Burma’s cultural traditions inherited from ancestors, he can’t stand the country’s loudspeaker culture.
“It is irritating and I lose patience, but I dare not complain as I am concerned that I would be criticized as irreligious,” he told The Irrawaddy. “Sometimes, the speakers talk not only about religious things, but also their grievances over political, economic and social issues of the country,”
U Ko Ko Naing, a member of the Union Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission, said that he has no comments on the use of loudspeaker since amendments to Ward or Village Tract Administration Law is still under debate at the two houses.
Dutch tourist Klaas Hajitema is currently on trial in Mandalay’s Maha Aung Myay Township on charges of violating visa regulations and insulting religion after he unplugged an amplifier used in a Dhamma recitation by Buddhist devotees at the township’s Dhamma Yone community hall, opposite his hotel.
When the news about Klaas Haijtema broke, the case went viral on social media and attracted mixed reactions. “It’s time to review the regulations for the use of loudspeakers. Whoever you are, we can’t escape from that terrible nuisance to our ears!” posted one critic on Facebook.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.