Dutch tourist charged, apologises for act seen as insulting religion
THE Dutch national who unplugged an amplifier broadcasting a Buddhist dhamma sermon in Mandalay last week – leading to a “religious insult” criminal charge – made a lawyer-less and remorseful initial appearance at the Maha Aung Myay Township Court yesterday.
During yesterday’s hearing, judge U Win Naing questioned U Thaung Dan, head of the Maha Aung Myay township Labour, Immigration and Population Department, about additional immigration charges being brought against the defendant.
“If someone applies for a visa to enter Myanmar, they have to follow the rules and regulations laid out in the visa,” U Thaung Dan said. “Section 4 says, ‘I shall follow the existing laws of Myanmar.’ It also says, ‘I will follow the customs of Myanmar.’ He is charged under section 13 because he breached section 4.”
Klaas Haytema, the defendant, is accused of disconnecting the amplifier at about 10pm on September 23 outside his hotel near Thusarita Dhammaryone, a Buddhist community hall in Maha Aung Myay township.
Soldiers were subsequently summoned to protect the 30-year-old tourist from an angry crowd that had surrounded his hotel and demanded that he be handed over to them, with the mob only dispersing after authorities promised legal action against him.
Mr Haytema appeared without legal counsel yesterday and answered questions from the judge through an interpreter.
“I was too tired on that day,” he said when asked to explain his conduct. “I wanted sleep desperately. I couldn’t stand the noise and checked outside the hotel. I saw that children were playing. I thought that they were playing it [the sermon] and I disconnected the amplifier. I did not notice that it was a religious building. I am really sorry and I really apologise.”
The complainant who filed a charge under section 295 of the penal code – covering intentional insult to religious feelings or beliefs – was not able to attend yesterday’s hearing. His testimony, as the giver of the sermon, is scheduled to be heard today.
Mr Haytema did not respond to reporters’ questions about his case following the hearing yesterday.
‘I did not notice that it was a religious building. I am really sorry and I really apologise.’
Klaas Haytema Defendant
Defendant Klaas Haytema (centre) appeared in court yesterday without a lawyer and faced charges of defiling a place of worship after he allegedly disconnected an amplifier during a Buddhist sermon at a community hall near his hotel in Mandalay.
Klaas Haytema (in green) makes an appearance at the Maha Aung Myay Township Court yesterday.