Dutch Tourist Jailed In Burma For Pulling Plug On Sermon

Open Jaw

Next time he might want to travel with noise-cancelling headphones – or just put a pillow over his head.

A Dutch tourist wept as he was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment with hard labour in Burma for literally pulling the plug on a loud, late night Buddhist sermon. 

Klaas Haijtema, 30, was convicted of causing a disturbance to an assembly engaged in religious worship after he unplugged an amplifier blasting out the sermon at the Thusarita Dhammayone religious community hall near his hotel.

"I was really tired that night and woke up to the noise," Haijtema told a court hearing last week. "I was very angry and assumed that children were playing music. I told them to lower the volume of the loudspeakers before I unplugged the amplifier, and they didn't understand me. That's why I unplugged it."

Haijtema was also fined the equivalent of $80. But it could have been worse – he was originally charged with the more serious offence of causing religious insult which carries a sentence of up to 2 years in prison. But that charge was dropped. Haijtema's legal counsel said he may appeal the sentence.

Slights against religion are treated very seriously by the courts and the public in Buddhist-majority Burma.

In July, a Spanish tourist was deported after monks complained about a tattoo of Buddha on his leg, while 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.

(will not be published)