Myanmar: Russian woman gets jailtime, hard labor for wearing sandals in temple

When told to not wear sandals inside the pagoda, the Russian tourist asked for a copy of the law which forbids the footwear inside pagodas. Source: Shutterstock

A RUSSIAN national has been jailed for six months with hard labor for wearing sandals in a Buddhist temple and violating visa rules in Burma (Myanmar).

The Myanmar Times reported on Wednesday that having spent a month in jail for entering three temples in the Nyaung-U township near Mandalay, the woman was slammed with another six months behind bars for violating the conditions of her Burmese visa.

Authorities said that her sentence was “the minimum punishment” and that visa offences could see people jailed for up to five years.

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“When she entered the pagoda wearing footwear, all the people including the pagoda trustees told her not to do it,” said an official from the Burmese immigration department.

“But she didn’t accept it. She asked for a copy of the law which forbids the footwear inside the pagodas.”

The court slapped the woman with a fine of MMK500,000 (US$370), but she refused to pay and chose jailtime instead.

“She should have known putting on footwear on the pagoda platform does not comply with Myanmar’s customs,” said seller of handicrafts near the Ananda pagoda as quoted by the Myanmar Times. “But we are sorry that she was put in jail.”

 

Burma remains highly traditional in its practice of Theravada Buddhism, with a number of foreigners finding themselves in trouble with the law for insulting religion.

Last October, a Dutch national was jailed for three months for unplugging the speakers of a Buddhist centre so he could sleep.

The following month, an Italian man was deported for having a tattoo of Buddha on his left leg.

** This article first appeared on our sister site Asian Correspondent