A Dutch tourist was jailed for three months in Myanmar for unplugging a speaker that was relaying a Buddhist sermon.
Klaas Haytema shed tears as he was handed the sentence that was coupled with a 100,000 kyats (about £62) fine for violating visa regulations requiring him to respect the culture.
The 30-year-old had pulled the plug on the late-night broadcast which was relaying a sermon, because he was trying to sleep. Haytema said that he was unaware that a religious service was taking place when he was arrested near his hotel in Mandalay.
Haytema was also accused by prosecutors of insulting Buddhism by not taking off his shoes when he entered the prayer hall to cut the sound.
Local media said he had apologised at a previous hearing and that he had not realised the amplifiers were broadcasting religious content yet the man who was delivering the sermon pressed charges.
According to the BBC the judge said Haytema was clearly guilty of insulting religion. In Buddhist-majority Myanmar, perceived insults of the religion are treated extremely seriously.
A community leader involved in the Dutchman’s case, Chit San, said he called police when tempers flared following the incident. He said, according to the Huffington Post: “We could not negotiate peacefully because people were angry, so we called the police to control the situation. We actually didn’t want him to get arrested.”
Other reports said soldiers had to be called to calm residents. It is unclear whether Haytema will appeal his sentence.
It is not the first time that foreigners have fallen foul of Myanmar’s strict religious laws. In July this year a tourist from Spain was deported after several monks complained about a tattoo of Buddha on his leg.
In 2015 a court sentenced New Zealand bar manager, Phil Blackwood, to two years in prison after he was found to have posted an image of Buddha wearing headphones on the bar’s official Facebook page. He was released in an amnesty in 2016.