Russian tourist sentenced to another 6 months in jail for wearing shoes near pagodas

The shoes. Photo: LeLe Aung
The shoes. Photo: LeLe Aung

A Russian tourist who was jailed for a month for wearing shoes inside several Bagan pagoda compounds has been sentenced to an additional six months in prison with hard labor for violating the etiquette provisions in Myanmar’s visa rules.

The woman was arrested on August 1, after residents of Nyaung U Township reported her to the local police for refusing to remove her shoes when entering pagoda grounds.

“For days, she was walking around pagodas with her shoes on…. She would be given warnings and sent back to her hotel, but she kept returning and still wearing shoes on the pagodas. The locals couldn’t stand it anymore, which is why they opened a case against her under Section 295,” First Lieutenant Myo Nyunt of the Tourist Police Force told Eleven at the time.

Russian tourist wears shoes
A Russian tourist wears shoes while speaking to authorities in Bagan on August 1. Photo: LeLe Aung

She was charged under Section 295 of the Penal Code for intentionally causing religious insult. The charge carries a jail sentence of up to two years and/or a monetary fine. When she failed to pay a K500,000 fine, a judge sentenced her to a month in prison.

Then, on August 25, she was also convicted under Section 13(1) of the Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act, which outlines the customs and traditions tourists must abide by while in Myanmar. She received the minimum sentence of 6 months in prison with hard labor; the maximum sentence is five years.

“She should have known that putting on footwear on the pagoda platform does not comply with Myanmar’s customs,” a handicraft vendor who works near Bagan’s Ananda Pagoda told the Myanmar Times. “But we are sorry that she was put in jail.”

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