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Dutch man charged with insulting religion in Burma

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Mandalay is a religiously and culturally conservative city

Mandalay is a religiously and culturally conservative city

Mandalay is a religiously and culturally conservative city

A Dutch citizen who allegedly unplugged an amplifier blasting a late-night Buddhist sermon near his hotel in Burma is due to appear in court charged with insulting religion.

Klaas Haytema, 30, was arrested last week in the city of Mandalay and has been detained while awaiting trial, with a hearing scheduled to take place later.

Police officer Kyi Soe said: "We are trying hard to make sure the trial doesn't take too long."

Haytema was staying at a hotel near a community religious hall. A crowd gathered to protest after the loudspeakers were turned off mid-sermon.

The man who was reciting the sermon pressed charges against Haytema for insulting the Buddhist religion, and immigration officials have charged him with violating the terms of his visa.

Dutch diplomats declined to comment on the case.

Local media reported that Haytema had apologised to the authorities. He faces up to two years in prison and a fine if convicted of the charge of insulting religion in the predominantly Buddhist country.

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Mandalay, a major tourist attraction in central Burma, is the country's cultural capital and the former seat of Burmese kings. It is culturally and religiously conservative.

In early 2015, a Burmese court sentenced a New Zealand bar manager, Phil Blackwood, to two years in prison after he posted an image of Buddha wearing headphones on the bar's official Facebook page in late 2014.

Blackwood was released in an amnesty earlier this year.

It is common for Buddhist groups to broadcast sermons by loudspeaker at very high volumes. Most people just endure the noise.

But one local government has proposed rules to control noise levels. Supporters quoted by local media said the proposal was meant to alleviate stress caused to the elderly and the ill.

AP


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