RANGOON — In the wake of recent anti-Muslim violence in northwestern Burma and a downtown protest organized by some Muslims in Rangoon yesterday, the country’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi today urged the people to settle the problem in accordance with the law and not to lash out in anger.
“If some legal actions had been taken right away, there would have been no such violence,” said she at a press conference at her party’s headquarters in Rangoon, referring to the case of an ethnic Arakanese woman who was raped and murdered last month, allegedly by three Muslim men, that sparked a Sunday bus attack that killed 10 Muslims in Arakan State bordering Bangladesh.
“If the authorities concerned hurry to settle the problem, everything will be under control. If not, it will surely get worse,” she warned.
Suu Kyi also appealed to Burmese to show tolerance toward religious and other minorities.
“The majority need to have mercy on the minority. The majority have to be more compassionate and have more understanding. Don’t lose your temper,” she said, adding that “some people won’t agree with me saying so.”
Eighty-nine percent of Burma’s 60 million people are Buddhists; only four percent are Muslims.
As she made her way out of her party’s headquarters after the press conference, Suu Kyi was greeted by three Muslim men from Burma Moulvi Headquarters dressed in religious attire.
“Mother, please take some action for us. We are worried that the violence will be repeated,” said one of the men.
“Our fellows were killed. They were not insurgents. They were religious men,” said another.
“You can punish the rapist, whether he is a Buddhist or Muslim,” said the third.
Trying to calm the men, Suu Kyi said she would do her best for everyone’s security, even though she had no authority to take action. “I want Burma to be a country where people from every race and religion feels secure,” she said.
One of the men, Mohammad Hasan, said half of his worries vanished after meeting with Suu Kyi, and that he was hopeful she could do something to settle things down.
“She is the one we all love. She is also an internationally respected person. She might have some way to help us,” he said.