Arrested dutch tourist was on first trip to Asia, witness tells Mandalay court
THREE more witnesses have given evidence in the trial of Dutch tourist Klaas Haytema, who was arrested last week on immigration violations and charges of offending religious sentiment after he unplugged an amplifier used to broadcast a dhamma sermon.
The witnesses at the September 30 hearing, the third so far in the case, were Police Lieutenant Myint Lwin, township administrator U Myint Kyaing and hotel usher Ma Zizawar.
While the testimony of the police officer and township administrator were mostly procedural, the evidence of the hotel usher provided insight into the timeline of the night’s events.
Ma Zizawar told the court that she had retired for the evening when she was contacted by another staff member of the hotel who told her that Mr Haytema had unplugged the amplifier at the community hall, and now there were problems occurring.
“The owner of our hotel phoned [Mr Haytema] and told him to apologise to the group of people who had gathered in front of the hotel,” she said. “As there were many people outside, we decided to keep him from going outside to apologise as we were worried for his safety.”
“Later, police and the township administrator arrived at the hotel and took the man away as they were concerned for his safety,” she added.
Ma Zizawar then gave evidence about comments Mr Haytema had made during the night’s events.
“He said that this was his first time visiting an Asian country and that there were few Buddhists in places where he had been before [prior to Mandalay]. He said that there were warning signs not to wear shoes in the pagodas he had visited in Sagaing, Inwa and Amarapura but he had not noticed any such signs when he entered into the Dhammaryone,” she said.
“He said that he thought the people were singing songs, not reciting a religious sermon. He said that he had gestured to the people in the hall once it was clear they had not understood what he said in English,” she added.
Additionally, Ma Zizawar told the court that Mr Haytema had apologised to the crowd once instructed to do so by police and said that he didn’t know the community hall had religious significance.
Mr Haytema is accused of disconnecting the amplifier at about 10pm on September 23 outside his hotel near Thusarita Dhammaryone, a religious community hall in Maha Aung Myay township, Mandalay Region.
‘He said that this was his first time visiting an Asian country and that there were few Buddhists in places where he had been before.’
He has been charged under section 295 of the penal code for intentional insult to religious feelings or beliefs. He is facing additional charges under immigration laws for failing to adhere to the customs and laws of Myanmar.
In his initial hearing on September 28, a lawyerless Mr Haytema apologised and blamed his conduct on tiredness. Another hearing in the case will be held today.
Dutch national Klaas Haytema leaves court on September 29.