Tourists and tour guides who are caught with their shoes still on while entering or climbing a pagoda will be prosecuted, according to Director Aung Aung Kyaw of the Bagan Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library. The statement comes after multiple reports of ignorant foreigners climbing Bagan’s pagodas with their shoes still on and negligent tour guides failing to inform their clients.
“You have to follow the rules and traditions of another country. If you climb a pagoda with your shoes on, then we have to take legal action under intent to insult religion,” Aung Aung Kyaw explained to 7Day.
Aung Aung Kyaw also cited an incident that took place in January at the Shwe Nan Yin Pyin Pagoda where a group of foreigners went up the pagoda without taking off their shoes. The tour guide who was responsible for the group but neglected to notify them of the rules was charged under Section 295 of the Myanmar Penal Code (“Injuring or defiling place of worship, with intent to insult the religion of any class”).
A few days ago, there were reports of two foreigners who had gone up Shwesandaw Pagoda without taking off their shoes. However, authorities say that they couldn’t press charges because they didn’t witness the incident themselves.
Officials have stressed that shoes are not allowed on any of Bagan’s pagodas. Aung Aung Kyaw explained, “There are signs at most pagodas saying that wearing shoes is not permitted, but this isn’t written at every pagoda. However, in a Buddhist country, there doesn’t need to be a written sign banning shoes on pagodas. Even if it’s not in writing, this is something that’s already enforced in accordance with this country’s religion.”