Muslim Gold Shop Owners Imprisoned for Meikhtila Unrest

A man walks through a destroyed neighborhood in Meikhtila on Friday. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

RANGOON—The Muslim owners of a gold shop in the central Burma town of Meikhtila have been sentenced to more than a decade in prison after a dispute at their shop sparked a wave of anti-Muslim riots that killed at least 43 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

The two owners and one employee of New Waint Sein gold shop were each sentenced on Thursday to 14 years in prison for aggravated assault, robbery, attempted injury, and aiding and abetting crimes, state-run media reported on Friday.

The police in Meikhtila, an upcountry town 130 kilometers north of Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the three defendants were among a total of 70 people, including 28 Muslims and 42 Buddhists, who had been arrested for their alleged roles in the riots.

“The rest are still under investigation,” an officer said. “We may arrest more.”

The Meikhtila Township court found the two shop owners and employee guilty of assaulting Buddhist customers during an argument at their shop on March 20, The Mirror newspaper reported on Friday.

The argument began after a Buddhist woman accused employees of damaging a gold hair clip that she wanted to sell, according to Reuters reports. One shop owner slapped the woman and three employees beat her husband outside, the news agency reported, citing witness testimony.

A crowd of mostly Buddhists arrived at the scene and started throwing rocks and yelling anti-Muslim insults, Reuters reported. They eventually destroyed the shop and surrounding businesses.

Later that day, a group of Muslim men killed a Buddhist monk, Reuters reported, and mobs of Buddhists responded with anti-Muslim riots.

The violence spread to 11 townships in Mandalay Division and Pegu Division.

Although the gold shop altercation was reportedly the first incident of unrest, it has been widely speculated that the riots were systematically organized. Some observers have pointed to an increasingly vocal nationalist Buddhist movement known as 969 that urges people to shun Muslim shops and businesses in Burma.

According to government reports, 43 people were killed during three days of clashes in Meikhtila, while 86 people were injured and 1,355 houses, shops and buildings were destroyed.

Nearly 13,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced in the violence, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The Irrawaddy reporter Snay Lin contributed to this report.

22 Responses to Muslim Gold Shop Owners Imprisoned for Meikhtila Unrest

  1. Did he have a fair trial? Sending some one to prison for a decade without proper trial may hurt the image of Burma. Did the gold shop owner cause the riot? Or did the thugs from USDP cause the riot? Ultra-nationalists from both USDP and Buddhist Monasteries are strongly believed behind the riot.

  2. Buddhist government of myanmar jailed 14 years to the owners of gold shop for assaulting. Lets see how many years they will jail the murderes of innocent Muslims? Most probably the Buddhist honorable judge will dismiss the case on the lack of evidence, like they did in the case of taunggoke where Buddhists killed ruthlessly 10 innocent people in the name of Theravada Buddhism.

  3. Riots were systematically organized. Buddisht Monks are doing police job. No law and order. Dirty minded youngster with no jobs have joined as Monks. This way they can beg for alms, and food going around into the streets. These are the teaching of Buddha?? Hitler killed millions of Jews. How many Muslims will be killed by Buddisht neonazis?

  4. I have more questions than answers in sending the gold shop owner to long term prison time. Sentencing this man in a short period of hearing means there is no proper hearing in the legal system. Did he have defense team which represents him properly? I doubt it.

  5. . What a wonderful and praise worthy. Government has taken swift action against Muslim Shop owners who created the Riot. The Islamic School teachers will face same. Aung San Su Kyi’s Rule of law will come to effect when all Muslims are wipe out from Burma. Burmese Government agents Wirathu and Dr. Aye Maung ( Rakine ) popularity will increase. They will become true hero of extremists Burma.

  6. Dear The Irrawaddy, comments like Ginni’s shouldn’t be published as it is directly insulting Buddhism and Buddhist monks who follow the teachings of the Lord Buddha, It would only create more arguments, insults, and unfavorable consequences. If I can request, please remove the mentioned comment. Thank you.

    • Ultra-nationalists were the ones who cast Burma into Hell from 1948 to 1962. Ne Win made it worse. Is it what the current regime and Buddhist monks try to repeat? When will they learn from the history? We all respect the teaching of Buddha but we do not accept the behavior of these extremists in recent violence. Separation of Religion and State seems totally dead in Burma. If Ginni has no right to express his view, you do not have the right to express your insulting view too.

      • (Dirty minded youngster with no jobs have joined as Monks. This way they can beg for alms, and food going around into the streets.) If you don’t call this an insult to Buddhism, what else? They normally are peaceful but in the face of protecting their own religion, they are no saints at all. Likewise, Muslims also fought back in order not to lose their lives and properties. A chaos was resulted. Nothing is good at all. I also posted a separate comment expressing my standing point. Now, you might probably understand what I meant. Thank you.

    • if Ginni comment is insult to Buddhist how about Wiratu propaganda against Muslim/Islam?if Buddhist monks have permission to insult Islam.the Monks lead Buddhist thugs can kill innocent Muslim in Burma,rohingya ethnic in rakhine,destroy property,business through out the country,made baseless allegation against Muslim privately,publicly.Buddhist monks committing genocide,ethnics cleansing against this Buddha allow?

  7. Really Zwegabinthar? Comments like Ginni shouldn’t be published because it would only create more arguments, insults, and unfavorable consequences? Are you trying to get on the pay list of the USDP thugs or are you doing this because you got paid already?

  8. My favorite comment is Zaw Win’s 🙂

  9. “A crowd of mostly Buddhists arrived at the scene ( gold shop) and started throwing rocks and yelling anti-Muslim insults, Reuters reported. They eventually destroyed the shop and surrounding businesses.”

    From the above paragraph, it shows obviously that than shwe set pre-arrrangment for immediate arrival of faked Buddhist monk-wirathu and his USPD at the shop. It is a business dispute happened anywhere around Burma. Why those faked , jealous Buddhist monks arrive at the shop all of the sudden and shouted that it is religious clash. The bama couple set this incident and irritated the shop owner and staff to reach the amount of hitting each others. I do not believe that the staff slapped the face of bama couple first. It is self-defense for all in this matter. I also do not believe Muslim killed one monk as it is also set by idiot monks and USDP. There is no rule of law in this case. Now, wirathu and than shwe will nationalise the shop and shop’s business. Than shwe is now trying to bamanization with the use of naive Buddhist monks and idiot Arakanese leaders ( Dr?) and his idiot low IQ, selfish followers. How some Bama are so poor to be robbing all minorities’ businesses from the admiration of US, UK and Japan for reform. it is than shwe’s rule of law. How is shameful from ugly behaviour of some bama? Robbed and rob all ethnics, rob Muslim, (some bama unfairly tell that Muslim are arrogant and Muslim do not participate bama culture water festival) , then will rob Chinese business very soon. Rich Foreign Muslim countries send and sent money to local Muslim for Bama business invasion. Now, thein sein is begging and begging , like a beggar to US, Japan and China for investment in Burma. Than shwe and his cronies wants free lunch from everywhere including very poor ordinary Burmese with the slogan of bamanization. Than shwe takes advantage of the clash between China and others ( Japan and US) to gain his power by his low class manipulation with the help of naive Faked Buddhist monks and naive Arakanese.

    • Well Norman, If you know the history of Dr. Aye Maung, you would know that he is not an idiotic Arakanese. He is world class criminal bent on taking over the land of the Muslims in Arakan. Do you know that this Mogh was born in Bangladesh to a couple of very poor Mogh? They moved to Burma whee he was very young.

      The self-proclaimed historian Dr. Aye Chan who has no Ph D and Dr. Aye Maung are devil possessed criminals against humanity.

  10. When Arakanese ( Rakhine ) Dr. Aye Mg ( Animal – Vet ) raised the questions to share some portions of gas sale income for Rakhine, the throne of Than Shwe was moved. Burmese Govt. created a rape case and flooded it in the media and subsequently killed 10 Muslims. .Dr. Aye Maung was served with Muslims blood. Again people from upper Burma asked to compensate for their farm land which were taken freely, then the government fooled the people by using soft target Muslims. The contracts between Chinese and Burmese old Govt. will remain as intact. If dare to protest, be ready to be burnt with Chemical agent.

  11. Justice system is unjustice under Thein Sein’s rule.

  12. I stated my opinion clearly. I may be a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Christian but I would have definitely written the same if that comment insulted any of these religions. You all know that there are many insulting words or phrases against any of these religions. That comment could have used any of them to the other religions too. You can sense the maximum hatred in that comment towards Buddhism and its followers. I am feeling so sad for all those who suffered from recent riots – not basically based on freedom of belief or religion. None of my words indicated that I was on the pay list of USDP. Be mindful that freedom of speech is not freedom of insult. Let’s hope for a peaceful world. Thank you.

  13. In the first instance, the Muslim shopkeepers physically abused the couple – husband and wife. Perhaps physical abuse is allowed in those goldshop owners’ religion which happen to be islam. But for all the civilized world, no physical abuse can be allowed or could be considered as legal. Those culprit Muslim shopowners should have been given the capital punishment because their hateful words and actions created mayhem.

    • Really? Are you sure they assaulted their customers? Do you have any proof? Fabricated story just to make the rioters look good, it may be just a fabricated story. Since day one, I never believe this story. Does the shop owner deserve long term jail time for this without receiving proper trial? Burmese government has many questions to answer. Rioters are on the loose till today. They have no right to put the law on their own hands and burned hundreds of houses into ashes.

    • Let’s just hypothetically say that the Muslims gold shop owner actually physically attack the customer. But for you to imply that he/she attacked because his religion allows it shows how you automatically equate people’s action to the religion they claim to believe, similarly to what I can say about you like this: “For you to attack another religion by making claim that that religion causes a person to attack someone is perhaps because your religion which happens to be Buddhism allows you to insult other religions”.

      If no physical abuse can be allowed or could be considered as legal for all the civilized world, how come you are not calling for capital punishment for the thugs rulers of Burma who caused many lives in Burma. Are you on USPD paylist?

  14. For crying out loud – they are not Buddhist or Muslim they are Burmese who had a dispute, but it was politicized, polarized by misfits and narrow minded opportunist who succeeded in not only destroying property and life but for ever tarnishing the image of Myanmar and Talabanized Theravada Buddhism a non violent way of life into something so intolerant and theocratic which Myanmar is not.

  15. Stupid remarks by Aung Thaung . Communist party does not exist. Aung Thaung has paid money to the criminals to kill muslims. HRW knows that. HRW willl take action on all these culprits sooner or later. I am very glad to hear that Wa has now bought Helicompter gunships with air to air missile. I pray God thT Wa wins the war and rule Wa state. Same with other ethnic minority to fight back the stupid army. Let alll join and fight army and get dimocracy.

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