Brawl Leads to Anti-Muslim Riot in Rangoon’s Outskirts

Myanmar, Burma, Rangoon, Yangon, Muslim, Buddhist, unrest, violence, communal violence, riots

Hundreds of police officers were deployed after an anti-Muslim riot broke out in Hlegu town, near Rangoon, on Friday night. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

HLEGU, Rangoon Division — A personal fight has sparked an anti-Muslim riot in the town of Hlegu on the outskirts of Rangoon. A Muslim man reportedly stabbed a Buddhist with a pair of scissors during an argument on Friday afternoon, after which an angry Buddhist mob pelted Muslim-owned properties with stones.

A mob of about 300 people destroyed a Muslim home and later attacked a mosque at about 6 pm on Friday, according to Ee Mang, a security guard at the mosque. He said local Buddhists were shouting profanity and calling for the death of Muslims as they shattered windows, broke into the building and stole money from the donation box.

“They threw stones and some of them got inside the mosque. But the police prevented them from doing further damage,” he told The Irrawaddy on Saturday, adding that he was born in Hlegu and had never before experienced conflict with local Buddhists.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed to the town on Friday night, about 45 kilometers outside the major city of Rangoon, while local authorities declared Section 188 of the Penal Code, ordering the crowd to disperse and imposing a curfew to prevent further unrest.

The police and community leaders did not report any injuries of local residents during interviews with The Irrawaddy on Saturday.

A police officer standing guard near the mosque said two other officers had been wounded while attempting to stop the mob from entering the mosque. “They used slingshots to shoot at us,” he told The Irrawaddy. “One police was shot in the head and the other in the leg.”

The riot was sparked after a Muslim man allegedly stabbed a Buddhist man in the eye with scissors during a dispute in the public market at about 4:30 pm on Friday. Four Muslim men were reportedly involved in the fight and afterward went to hide in a home. When the police came for their arrest, the homeowner handed over only one of the men, angering a group of Buddhists, who subsequently destroyed the home, according to Myo Win, a Buddhist community leader.

“There would not have been violence if the homeowner handed over all four men,” he said, adding that he had worried the mob might target other Muslim properties in the town, even though the dispute was personal and not related to religion.

He added that there were no problems in the past between Buddhists and Muslims in the town, and that he believed the situation would be stable again soon.

Tensions following the riot have encouraged some Muslim families to seek shelter in Rangoon. Others are remaining indoors due to safety concerns. Muslim homes and shops were closed on Saturday, with business owners saying they feared they might be targeted.

Three Muslims have been detained and the police have arrested six Buddhists who are suspected of involvement in the mob attacks, according to Nyunt Hlaing, another community leader.

Buddhist-majority Burma has seen several outbreaks of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims over the past two years. The worst clashes, in the western state of Arakan, have left scores dead and over 140,000 people displaced.

Other riots have broken out in Shan State, Mandalay Division, Pegu Division, Rangoon Division, and Sagaing Division, often in communities where Muslims and Buddhists have lived peacefully for generations. In some cases, locals have said that outsiders came to instigate the unrest. Some observers have questioned whether the violence has been connected to a nationalist Buddhist movement known as 969 that encourages people to shun Muslim businesses.

7 Responses to Brawl Leads to Anti-Muslim Riot in Rangoon’s Outskirts

  1. Can Burmese be open minded and take action according to law? Why we have to be so barbarian to act? You call yourself Buddhism? You don’t even follow what buddha teaching!

  2. Puppet Thein Sein’s government has the plans to violence in Rakhine state.

    • Stay away from burma if you dont like it, and keep those allah worshipping muslims who kill hindus, buddhists, christians once they reach 40% population

  3. Why do the Burmese Buddhists bully? The fight between two persons is not national or religious issue but the Burmese are jumping on the helpless minority. The most coward people are the Burmese.

    • The fight was started by a muslim and they are the victims. Everywhere there is a fight by muslims they end up as the poor lost little boys. they know what they are doing. They follow the Koran to spread jihad in every country. Every muslim country has either no or little democracy and freedom. Women are second class citizens and children are used for walking bombs by some jihadists. Women are stoned and parts of them are cut off as young girls. They are taught to lie to non muslims and in many countries kill gays. According to the Koran Buddhists are third class citizens and can be killed without fear of recource in a muslim country.
      Compare this to the Buddha’s teaching. Yet stupid liberals, who muslims will kill in the long run because they supoport gays and democracy, still think muslims are nice cute cuddly bearded people.
      As I said just take a look at any muslim country. This is what happens to any place that muslims move into. Metta , karuna are good qualities to practice but practising these should make you stupid and leave critical thinking in the gutter.

  4. Those Burma watchers and activists better be noted, the social and political condition inside Burma is still like a powder keg which can explode on any spark of fire. What happened in Hlegu — an ordinarily small town — a brawl of two persons, one allegedly Muslim, can escalate into deploying a riot squad by the government. Some point to the 969 effects, which I repeat, is only partially to blame. Other issues such as law and order situation must also be addressed in this case.

    For example, people inside Burma have very little confidence in the police and court to deliver justice. For decades, the Burmese people have seen corrupt police and court are letting loose those who are seen guilty of crimes. Sadly, this experience had made the Burmese public, consciously or unconsciously, taking matters into their own hands.

    In many setting, there would be no one bothering about the due process of law. The concerned public may become self appointed themselves to the role of judge, jury and executioner. In many ways, this is a kind of Burmese public seeking ‘mob justice’ where a real justice, in their view, is non-existence. Consequently, the whole of Burmese society has become adopting to the ‘mob mentality’. Obviously, a great deals of public education and campaign actions are needed to counter such unhealthy social trend. Everybody, not only Burmese government, but also NLD, media and all other political and social groups must act together in educating this kind of law & order issues.

    Those who are doing positive political spins about Burma, just be aware. A country of which the government has to deploy a riot squad for an ordinary side-street brawl isn’t a politically stable country.

    In Solidarity,
    U Ne Oo, Australia.

  5. There were no such frequent attacks against Muslims while cruel Ne Win and Than Shew’s Military Governments were in power . Now suddenly within two years the attacks on Muslims were increased. The Buddhist extremists who burned young boys alive in Mikktila were not arrested yet though there were solid video proofs. Why? The answer is with soft spoken deceiver Thein Sein

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