Mosque, shops razed in Myanmar violence
29 May 2013, 09:31
Yangon - Sectarian violence spread to a new region
of Myanmar, with a mob burning down a mosque, a Muslim orphanage and
shops in a north-eastern town after rumours spread that a Muslim man had
set fire to a Buddhist woman, authorities said on Wednesday.
were no reported fatalities, according to a police officer and a
Buddhist monk in Lashio, the remote northern town near China's border
where the violence erupted on Tuesday night. The full extent of the
unrest was still unclear, with no immediate reports of how many people
may have been injured.
Deadly sectarian violence between
Buddhists and Muslims has occurred since last year in other parts of the
country, first in a western region and then in central towns. The new
flare-up will reinforce doubts that President Thein Sein's government
can or will act to contain the violence.
The government quickly condemned the violence in a statement on Wednesday that urged the public to stay calm.
religious buildings and creating religious riots is inappropriate for
the democratic society we are trying to create," presidential
spokesperson Ye Htut said on his Facebook page.
cautiously noted that "two religious buildings and some shops" in Lashio
were burned, without specifying if they were Muslim or Buddhist.
"Any criminal act will be dealt with according to the law," the statement said.
School and orphanage torched
Lashio police officer and a Buddhist monk contacted on Wednesday
morning by telephone said the town's largest mosque and a Muslim
orphanage were among the buildings set afire after an irate mob of about
150 people rampaged through the town. Both spoke on condition of
anonymity because they feared for their safety.
The town was calm
on Wednesday morning after authorities imposed a security measure that
bans gatherings of more than five people, the police officer said.
politician in Lashio in Shan state, Sai Myint Maung, said the mob had
initially gathered outside a police station demanding that the alleged
culprit in the unconfirmed immolation be handed over.
to the rumours, the man doused the woman with gasoline and set her
alight. The attack could not be confirmed, but a Muslim-oriented news
website that described it said the attacker was not Muslim.
website of the Muslim-oriented M-media Group said Lashio's biggest
mosque was torched by a mob while fire-fighters stood by, and a Muslim
school and orphanage was also burned down.
It did not say if there
were any casualties. Its report acknowledged the burning of the woman
but said the perpetrator was not a Muslim.
website's accounts of past violence against Muslims in Myanmar were
subsequently reported in other media. Several photos circulating on
Facebook also showed what was purported to be the mosque in flames.
sectarian violence began in western Rakhine state last year, when
hundreds died in clashes between Buddhist and Muslims that drove about
140 000 people, mostly Muslims, from their homes.
had seemed confined to that region, but in late March, similar
Buddhist-led violence swept the town of Meikthila in central Myanmar,
killing at least 43 people.
Several other towns in central
Myanmar experienced less deadly violence, mostly involving the torching
of Muslim businesses and mosques.
Muslims account for about 4% of
the nation's roughly 60 million people. Anti-Muslim sentiment is
closely tied to nationalism and the dominant Buddhist religion, so
leaders have been reluctant to speak up for the unpopular minority.
Sein's administration, which came to power in 2011 after half a century
of military rule, has been heavily criticised for not doing enough to
He vowed last week during a US trip that all
perpetrators of the sectarian violence would be brought to justice, but
so far, only Muslims have been arrested and sentenced for crimes
connected to the attacks.
Muslims, however, have accounted for
far more of the victims of the violence, and rights groups have accused
certain authorities of fomenting a campaign of ethnic cleansing.