Myanmar Arrests Tourists Deemed of “Insulting Buddhism”

Tour operators programming Myanmar should warn their clients to behave extremely carefully with the image of the buddhist religion, as reported by French news agency AFP.

A Dutch tourist has been detained in Myanmar for insulting religion after being accused of pulling the plug on a speaker relaying a late-night Buddhist sermon in Mandalay. Klass Haytema, 30, has been held since Friday night when he allegedly disconnected the cable linking an amplifier and a speaker at a hall playing the sermon after he complained that it was “disturbing him”, police said.

“The religious hall is not far from the hotel where he was staying… he said he did it because it was too noisy for him,” Kyi Soe, police chief at Maha Aung Myay township, told AFP. An angry crowd followed the man back to his hotel, where he was taken into custody by police and later transferred to a Mandalay prison.

“We detained him for insulting religion,” he said, adding it was under section 295 of Myanmar’s penal code. He is yet to be charged but the law carries up to a two- year jail term and fine.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar is deeply devout and several foreigners have been found guilty of insulting religion. In July a Spanish tourist was deported from Myanmar after monks complained about a tattoo of Buddha he had on his leg. Last year a New Zealand bar manager spent 10 months in jail for “insulting religion” by using a Buddha image to promote a cheap drinks night.

Buddhist nationalism has surged in Myanmar in recent years, with the country’s Muslim minority—around 5% of the population—facing particular pressure. A political movement conducted by a monk preaches violence against Myanmar minorities—particularly the Muslim ones.

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