Govt Vows to End Anti-Muslim Riots, As Fresh Violence Hits Pegu Division

A Muslim man talks with a Buddhist monk on Sunday at a school that temporarily houses Muslim refugees who were driven out of Meikhtila town during riots last week I added Sunday in there. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

A Muslim man talks with a Buddhist monk on Sunday at a school that temporarily houses Muslim refugees who were driven out of Meikhtila town during riots last week. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Anti-Muslim riots spread further southward through central Burma on Monday night, as unidentified attackers ransacked Islamic neighborhoods in two towns in Pegu Division. President Thein Sein’s government meanwhile, announced that it was taking measures to stem the violence and safeguard its reform agenda.

Muslim neighborhoods in Okpho and Gyobingauk, two small towns located about 200 km (125 miles) north of Rangoon in Pegu Division, bore the brunt of the latest attacks.

A local resident named San Lwin said that around 9 pm Monday night a group of men ransacked a mosque, buildings and shops in Okpho. “Nearly 60 buildings were destroyed. The rampage was going on until 4 in the morning. We went into hiding,” he told The Irrawaddy by phone.

An officer at Gyobingauk police station said that unidentified attackers began razing a Muslim neighborhood there at around 11:30 pm Monday and continued until 6 am. The policeman, who declined to be named, said that no casualties had been reported so far, adding that police investigations were ongoing.

Kyaw Khin, chief secretary of the All Burma Muslim Federation, said about 30 houses and one mosque were destroyed in Gyobingauk, while several shops were looted. “I was told that the attackers used a bulldozer from a nearby timber company to destroy the mosque in Gyobingauk,” he said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the local government imposed a dusk-till-dawn curfew in Gyobingauk and Okpho towns to prevent further unrest, according to police.

On Monday night, President Thein Sein’s government tried to assuage the growing domestic and international concerns over the spread of anti-Muslim attacks in central Burma. The government said it would take all necessary measures to restore calm and to safeguard its reform agenda.

“The government will make an earnest effort to control and address all forms of violence, including instigations that lead to racial and religious tensions,” it announced on state-run television Monday night.

“Currently, the government is making concerted efforts in democratic reform and development undertakings with added momentum. That’s why people are urged to avoid acts of violence and religious extremism that could disrupt the reform process,” the statement said.

In recent days the violence directed at Islamic communities spread southward from Mandalay Division’s Meikhtila Township, where riots erupted on March 22. More than 8,000 Muslims were displaced and at least 40 people were killed in the town. The displaced townspeople are staying in makeshift camps with little in the way of emergency aid.

On Friday, a state of emergency was declared in the Meikthila region and military units moved in to restore calm. Several Mandalay Division towns were subsequently targeted and on Sunday rumors spread that Rangoon’s Muslim quarters would be attacked, sparking fear in Burma’s biggest city. No incidents were reported however.

Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said in a Facebook page post on Monday night that people should not be panicked by such rumors.

“There are instigators making the most of people’s worries and strong emotions to cause more unrest. So, people shouldn’t believe rumors, and any suspected activities should be reported to police immediately,” he said, without specifying who the supposed ‘instigators’ are.

Since the riots began there has been a growing suspicion among Muslim leaders and Burmese activists that the violence is being incited by outside interests, which are trying to pit Buddhist and Muslim communities against each other.

Some have suggested that hardliners in the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, who oppose Thein Sein’s reform agenda, are paying bands of thugs to attack Muslim areas.

Both the UN and the US have expressed concerns about the ongoing unrest. The UN Secretary General’s Special Adviser on Burma, Vijay Nambiar, visited violence-hit Meikhtila town on the weekend and on Monday he met with President Thein Sein.

According to state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar, the president assured the UN envoy that, “steps were being taken as soon as possible to take action against those who led the violence and got involved in it, and to expose those who flamed the conflict under the pretext of religion.”

17 Responses to Govt Vows to End Anti-Muslim Riots, As Fresh Violence Hits Pegu Division

  1. Maung Kyaw Nu,a former political prisoner of conscience

    We were imfromed the racists planning attack in Pego at 9 pm last night(Monday).It was already happend. Why the gov didn’t take pre action to control it ?Where was Thien Sein and his administration from 9 pm to 6 am today when Mosque was buldozered to ablaze and many subjets of Muslim were destroyed ?He is sending army after killing and finishing most of Muslim’s properties and lives.

    It’s widely proved that the Muslim and Rohingyas are not protected nationally. The genocide on Muslim is spreading everywhere in Burma. The international protection is the only option to save guard the Muslim in Burma.In this regards ,We are calling urgent sitting of UN Security Council meeting to deploy UN Peace keeping Forces to protect remaining Muslim and Rohingyas in Burma.It’s a fearful GENOCIDE .

    • Maung Kyaw Nu,
      Your choice of word “Genocide” is unacceptable. The Burmese military never protected the people. How many innocent Karens lost their lives in the hands of Burmese military? How about the Kachins and the Shans? Hundreds of thousands lives had been lost in the hands of dictators. That’s genocide. How many Muslims died in the recent conflict in Arakan? How many Muslims lost their lives in Meikhtila? I feel sorry for this nonsense violence but your choice of word is more nonsense. Military dictators never protect us but they did protect their own security to hold on to power. So, stop crying. We all are doing the same.

  2. The fake Monk Wirathu is preaching hate speeches and his followers are killing Muslim as per his lecture Government is sending him to console Muslim refugee from the camp. In recent photos shown him as a chief guest (VIP) sitting in front row with UN chief of staff for Burma. What a Joke. Thein Sein Government will do every thing to deceive outside world. If they really want to maintain peace, it will not take few hours. But they will not do.

  3. That ” international” is busy flat out praising Thein Sein who front the very same military thugs who has NEVER changed apart from clothes. It is so funny and weird people saying the military coming back. Where have they gone? All they have done is change cloths and name and sell out the country freely whereas before they were a bit reluctant to do so. And the carpetbagger internationals are in drove to rip the virgin land apart.

    They are the ones propping up and pampering the Sit-tut Criminals. And Sit-tut Criminals are the VERY ONES along with their supporter buddies, NLD who always support the criminal acts of the Sit-tut and NAZI monks and laymen. In today’s Burma the control of Sit-tut is so complete, more so than any time under Ne Win or even Than Shwe as open head, any violent act done by any one to anybody at all is always done by the Sit-tut itself via trained thugs like in Daparin massacre where Aung San Suu Kyi was saved not because she was lucky or her driver so clever but it was not the intention to kill her but to kill hundreds of innocent public.

    Here having put the international community, organizations and press in their pocket, the Sit-tut is acting out their xenophobic and chilling EXTERMINATION plan with the support of ever corrupted monks and equally e=xenophobic segment of public.

    Ruleoflaw Aung San Suu Kyi is distinctive by total absence which itself is collusion.

  4. Building a Buddhist Nation by bulldozing Mosques and Churches is not the right way of doing business. Religion must not be used as steppingstone for political gain. Punishing many Muslims for one shop owner’s aggression in Meikhtila also is so pathetic. Buddhism is the religion of majority in Burma. They also need to have bigger hearts and souls to lead us. So far the Buddhists lack of broadminded mentality. “Superstition and Natganar Pwe” mentality will never bring peace among us.

  5. It is ridiculous that the Gyobingauk police could not identify the attackers who are rampaging there from 11:30 pm until 6 am. What the police were doing? How big is the area?

  6. Why there is no article about the burnt Monk from Makehtila? Please try to investigate those killed the monk at the Mosque and make article about that. This was the beginning of the riot in Makehtila.

    • Even your little story of “a Buddhist monk killed at the Mosque” was true, there is no justification to begin the riot.

      If you think those Buddhist mobs are protecting Buddhism by killing Muslims and destroying their religious buildings and houses, why didn’t they do anything when several Buddhist monks were killed by Buddhist military thugs. Where were they at that time? Oh, I remember now that they were hiding from the bullets.

      How hypocrisy & bravery of you (Buddhist extremists).

    • Please don’t believe in fabricated rumor – it all starts from the argument in a gold shop which in any civilized world will not / should not explode to this large scale tragedy – actually, it’s the monk and thugs who cold blood murdered other innocent human beings. Any killings is a severe violation of basic concepts of any religion.

  7. George Than Setkyar Heine

    Dr. Lwin’s QUESTION is the ANSWER t o ALL MAYHEM in BURMA today folks?
    Of course Gyobingauk police nor ALL POLICE in BURMA would not ARREST much less IDENTIFY the CULPRITS running amok in Burma today trust me.
    A case in point: A traffic policeman who DID his DUTY WENT MISSING today in the tunnels of Naypyidaw today.
    Thein Sein’s mob at Naypyidaw WANTS the COUNTRY in a LESS STABLE STATE to PREEMPT foreign investments (EU, UK, US and others) in BURMA with a view to GIVING A FREE HAND to the Chinese communists and UMEHL joint ventures and MEETING their DEADLINES no less as well trust me.
    TALK of DEMOCRATIC REFORMS in Burma are NO BETTER than MANTRAS (verses) Than Shwe and Thein Sein amongst others at Naypyidaw are REPEATING and RECITING 24/7 until today to WARD OFF ILL OMENS/FATE waiting for PAY BACK TIME for their CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY/WAR CRIMES they have committed during their brutal rule lasting decades in Burma until today any bets?

  8. The military intelligence (MI)was widely known notorious to hunting, abducting, torturing and persecuting political dissidents fighting for democracy. What about now? They don’t even bother to catch the gang who incite and get involved in the violence. Maybe they are actually instrumental and playing behind the screen.

  9. Monotheistic vs theistic. Islam vs Buddhism. Muslims vs Buddhists. Allah vs Buddha.

  10. A religion that spreads it’s teaching by fire and sword, will set its self on fire and be pierced by its own sword: Tolerance is the watch word; not ignorance.

  11. There is NO communal riots, religious or racial or otherwise.

    Only most dreadful, tragic ones MANUFACTURED by none other than Thein Sein fronted Sit-tut junta of which Aung Thaung/ Wirathu section with trained agitators and thugs (remember Deparin- where Aung San Suu Kyi was purposely spared while her true supporters in hundreds were inhumanely beaten to deaths) is just a small part.

  12. As a president of Myanmar, he is the most responsible person for handling the current political turmoil of killing minority people by monks from majority Buddhist. He should be accountable without any excuse. Same thing using burning gas on people who protested against Chinese mine. He should not cheat his people by words There are solid proves for Government involvement in this carnage. He himself indirectly confessed. But his deputy now rejected UN claim as unfounded.

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