Buddhists in Burma Torch Muslim Homes and Shops

A photo published on the Facebook page of Ye Htut, the deputy minister of information and the presidential spokesman, shows buildings burning in Htan Gone village, Sagaing Division, over the weekend. Members of a 1,000-strong Buddhist mob torched dozens of homes and shops in northwestern Burma following rumors that a Muslim man tried to sexually assault a young woman. (Photo: Ye Htet / Facebook)

HTAN GONE, Sagaing Division — Members of a 1,000-strong Buddhist mob torched dozens of homes and shops in northwestern Burma following rumors that a Muslim man tried to sexually assault a young woman, officials and witnesses said, as the country was once again gripped by sectarian violence.

The rioters, who sang the country’s national anthem as they rampaged, dispersed after security forces arrived early Sunday, shooting into the air. No injuries were reported.

The hours-long riot in Htan Gone village, located 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of the town of Kantbalu in the division of Sagaing, began late Saturday after a crowd surrounded a police station, demanding that the suspect in the attempted assault be handed over, a police officer told The Associated Press. The officer requested anonymity because he did not have the authority to speak to reporters.

State television reported that about 42 houses and 15 shops were burned and destroyed—most belonging to Muslims.

The predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million has been grappling with sectarian violence since the country’s military rulers handed over power to a nominally civilian government in 2011.

The unrest—which has killed more than 250 people and left 140,000 others displaced—began last year in the western state of Arakan, where nationalist Buddhists accuse the Rohingya Muslim community of illegally entering the country and encroaching on their land. The violence, on a smaller scale but still deadly, spread earlier this year to other parts of the country, fueling deep-seeded prejudices against the Islamic minority and threatening Burma’s fragile transition to democracy.

Almost all of the victims have been Muslims, often attacked as security forces stood by.

The Information Ministry said that at the height of the latest round of violence, up to 1,000 people were rampaging through Htan Gone village. The riots were triggered by a report that a Muslim man attempted to sexually assault a Buddhist woman on her way home from work, the ministry said.

The man was brought to the village police station and transferred to Shwe Bo Prison.

“About 100 angry men gathered outside the police station in Htan Gone village to demand that the culprit be handed over,” Tin Naing Htun, who lives in the village, told The Irrawaddy. “Since they did not get what they wanted, the mob started destroying shops and torching houses in Muslim areas of the community.”

He said police officers who attempted to disperse the mob were attacked, prompting the officers to fire into the air.

“After they [rioters] destroyed the Muslims’ shops, they torched a poultry farm, a tea shop and other shops. When they headed to another house to torch it, the police urged them to stop but they threw stones and attacked with slingshots, so the police opened fire into the air,” he said.

“Fire engines could not extinguish the fires at first. When the mob started torching the houses, they blocked the way and attacked the fire engines.

“Muslims have now been temporarily moved to other villages, where their relatives live. The situation now is quite stable, as the area is controlled by the police, but we are afraid the problem may come up again.”

Aung San, a 48-year-old Muslim man, said his family had to flee when the mob burned down their house. He lives with his parents, who are in their 70s.

“People descended on our village with swords and spears, and sang the national anthem and began destroying shops and burned houses. Police shouted at the mob to disperse, but did not take any serious action,” he said. “We hid my parents and two sisters in a cemetery before the mob burned our house, and we fled later.”

He and his family were taking refuge Sunday at a Muslim school.

The police told The Irrawaddy that 11 men had been detained for allegedly torching the homes and shops, and that an investigation was ongoing.

State-run media offered a timeline of the events. At 7:30 pm, the crowd gathered at the local police station and called on officers to hand over the suspect, according to the Rangoon-based New Light of Myanmar newspaper. After the crowd began setting fire to shops and homes, the township police commander and other officials arrived at about 8 pm and attempted to control the station. At about 10:30 pm, as rioters continued setting shops alight, the region security and border affairs minister arrived, along with the district police commander.

The first warning shot was fired to disperse rioters at about 1:15 am, the newspaper said, and a second warning shot was fired later to clear a path for fire trucks to put out the fires. A police battalion arrived at 3 am to assist 70 firefighters, who managed to control the fires by about 3:30 am, it reported.

A total of 44 houses, nine stalls and four shops were destroyed, the newspaper reported. It said one firefighter and one civilian were injured in the incident.

The New Light of Myanmar said the region chief minister later formed a committee with local authorities to meet with residents and religious associations, in a bid to deter further violence. The minister made arrangements to open relief camps for the fire victims, the newspaper reported, adding that relief items were being distributed to 50 households.

Myint Naing, an opposition lawmaker who represents constituents in Kantbalu, was outraged by the latest violence. He said Muslims and Buddhists have lived side-by-side in the area for many years.

“There is a mosque in almost every village in our township and we live a peaceful co-existence,” he said, adding that at least one mosque was burned down in the violence.

“I cannot understand why the authorities were unable to control the crowd when it originally started,” he said.


26 Responses to Buddhists in Burma Torch Muslim Homes and Shops

  1. Dont say that buddhist burn muslim homes.
    People write bad article if they can make good money. Think about for the country and our people.

    • As long as no prominent Buddhist figures have come out to denounce the violence as much as Wirathu is promoting it as a brand new precept of Buddhism, there will be misgiving about Burmese Buddhist as terrorists. The genocide against the Kalar is happening in Burma, and Burmese Buddhists as citizens of the world have the responsibility to stand up for the victims and prevent it from ever happening again.

      Remember your cry for help from outside world when Than Shwe was blatantly shooting his way to the throne? Well, now it is your chance to answer the cry of Kalar.

      Kan Kan ei ah kyoe
      What goes around comes around
      Karma is a b*tch

      They all bear the same meaning.

    • You budhists are burning muslims in burma becoz there is very low population of muslims you r such a cavour and cruel persons … Do u think we muslims are silent nd we r not taking any action no it zz wrong one day we will burnt all the buddhists nd we r preparing of doing that..

  2. we know , U Thein sein goverments are doing anti muslism violence, you should be shamful fake monk and 969 group are totally support and encourage by goverment.God will punish to all.

  3. I wished you had changed you headline: Criminals in Burma …. It is my strong opinion that no one who belives truly in the teaching of Buddha would take such inhuman actions. Why don’t you leave religion out of this conflict? You put oil in the fire if you try to explain a criminal act with religion. Discrimation of any religion has never come to a good end for mankind.

    Konrad

  4. Police should investigate who are triggering behind such sectarian violence. It is really not enough to arrest the people who burn the houses and shops. It is most possible that it is not religious violence between Muslim people and Buddhist people, reflecting from political traps by one group who really do not want reforms in our country. Same stories like Meiktila, Lashio and other areas. Respect and love the people regardless of any religions.

  5. One man’s freedom is another man’s nightmare, this is the sad legacy of Than Shwe and the Thatmadaw. It is time to extinguish this mobocracy by putting the troubled areas directly under martial law.

  6. time to start using deadly force…this is getting way out of hands.

  7. Well orchestrated psychological war-fare like strategy in affect…….
    Never happened in Burma
    It all started after O buma visit
    Bush and Blair are responsible for Muslim Bashing World Over
    Saffron revolution; anticipated by United States are in affect
    Well!
    In The Name Of Democracy Muslim World On Fire
    Why should Burma Muslim be included in the Scheme of Western Democratic Scheme
    History Never Lie
    Pray!

  8. Why do the Burmese Buddhists put the law in in own hands? If some one is committing crime, it is supposed to be handled by law enforcement. Now, hatred is ruling our land. The people who torched houses are as guilty as a muslim man accused of committing crime. Buddhists must be punished too in this case.

  9. Democracy is not ready for this country only military ruling will fit for Burma(Myanmar)

    • Yes. Myanmar majority not ready for democracy! We cannot watch a “friendly” football match without fighting one another and destroying good seats. We deserve only “nwar hle” and miserable huts.

    • Yes, fox than shwe is saying the way you are that uneducated Buddhist Burmese are not fit for democracy so fox than shwe and you ( uneducated or lack of civilized people ) should continue to rule Burma instead of DASSK, Ming Ko Naing , U win tin and Kachin or other ethnic leaders. Do you come from notorious low class defense service academy ( Do-Self- Academy as a opportunist) or OTS (Outclass-Tamadaw-Service-no class)? Or do you come from USDP ( unethical solder disorder party), formed by bama military thugs?

  10. After burning Muslims houses and properties then Police will take action. Govt. mouthpiece will boost the situation is now normal. Why playing with vulnerable Muslims minority community? It is disgracing not only Burmese Buddhist but Buddhist of the world. Using fake cover of Monks in the atrocities, thugs are making Buddhist as untouchable and disgusting. These military thugs who are behind the scene, have no hearts. They will go to extreme cruelty for their personal interest

  11. Are these really Buddhists? Buddhists would not do that. They are byof ‘the general public’. Although the vast majority of Myanmar is Buddhist (luckily) one should not just say that Buddhists did this. Apart from that, again there is a cause that confirms the fact that there are reasons for all that violence. In Muslim countries these things also happen, like recently in Egypt where extremist Muslims destroyed churches after looting them and later on dragging Christian nuns around. That there are good Muslims is shown by the fact that they were resqued by another Muslim. This happening goes around the world and shows what these fanatics are able to. So all over the world there is a growing axiety. No wonder.

  12. Please note that the looters and arsonists were other villagers, not from Htangone.
    In Burma villagers in remote rural area can be non-religious, not knowing how to worship the Buddha or the Sangha.
    True that thugs are thugs, nothing good you can expect from them. I remember when my native town in central Burma was on fire in 1951, people all over the surrounding area, near and far, came, some to help relatives and friends but many others to loot or lift shop and household possessions.
    And now, people say, this is an organized crime, organized by people like who want to perpetuate the military rule for obvious advantages and to the detriment of all other citizens.

  13. 1. It is not Buddhists who torched shops and homes. They were undisciplined thugs, troublemakers, hooligans. Yes, they may say they are ‘Buddhists’ but no true Buddhist, or follower of Buddha’s teachings would cause harm to another. 2. The mob of thugs sing the national anthem so they can pretend to be patriots defending the nation and national religion, but they just want to destroy, whatever the reasons they have for their anger, such as unemployment and poverty – nothing to do with Muslims. 3. the MEDIA, PLEASE BE MORE CAREFUL AND RESPONSIBLE IN REPORTING NEWS, CHOOSE WORDS WITH CARE !

  14. The Military Ruler has said it.
    Yes, the military mind-set is not fit for democracy. Because in democracy they become ordinary citizens without perks, special privileges and political power. I read somewhere in these columns that Ne Win was anti-politics and yet he was himself doing politics!!!
    And they were never able to deal with protesting people without shooting to kill. And they were using the Muslim-Buddhist “conflict”, as if it were real. as a political tool.

  15. By looking at these disturbance and violence actions I do not feel that Myanmar will be on the top of the World. We are shamed on our name of the country. How will the government organize 27 SEA Games with this sort of situation. I am extremely concerned that Myanmar will definitely face more undesirable problems in December. If the country were unstable, who would want to come that country, knowing the weakness of government’s responsibility, even though the responsible person from UN Human Rights had been experienced with unhappiness in the country. He should be given tide security before he went there. Why had he run to Nay-Pyi-Taw? Whether it is gossip or not, he looked unhappy in his news conference at the airport.

  16. i am a buddhist but i do not like and respect the monks and the person who commits crime
    and oppose to the buddha will.
    u nay

  17. Buddhists avoid any bloodshed but Muslim used to do beheaded cow, hala and celebrate their holy day with sacrificing cows, sheep and other’s lives. This bloodshed celebrating lead to their daily life and aggressive habit. Please study the terrorism in various parts of the world. Even in their own community killing among Suni and Shiite muslims,, or rather Hindu and Muslims, innocents from West against their religious extremists. One can judge their aggressive and criminal characters involving all over the world. We buddhist have the right to defend these barbarian acts. Love and Peace to All.

  18. who done this if not buddhist and monks ??? time magazine clearly says what happens in the name of religion.. this is called maithree on other religion…formed by uncivilized barbarian in myanmar… i learned buddha’s teachings from a buddhist monk which he express his kindness towards human being and animals… but see the nowadays his followers monks act like barbarian in myanmar… no human rights or obama or cameron will talk on?????

  19. In Syria 1400 men, women and children were killed in one sarin attack. The Islamic world kept mum. In Afghanistan thousands were killed every month at the peak of the war. The Muslim world did not blame Al Qaeda. In Iran by the name of Shahria, thousands were made homeless, raped and killed. The Muslim world kept mum. In one sweep the Muslims of Maungdaw killed, maimed and burnt down 1400 Buddhist houses, 600 of which were perished with their owners. The Muslim world kept mum. Now a few hundred of Muslims were killed by Burmese Buddhists and the Irrawaddy including all the jaundiced media and press start shouting that the Muslims have been attacked. What is happening to all these people allergic to Buddhists, after all? Why you guys are blind of what the Muslim extremists did to Maungdaw?

  20. No one should have the right to kill and destroy other person property, they should be taken into custody and sentenced according to law. Be it Muslims or Buddhists.

  21. cth, you are totally right and I fully support you. Again I am a Buddhist, and I don’t have respect for fake monks. But I am convinced that I have the right to defend myself, if it is bullying from the Muslims, I am not supposed to take it with my head down. I have to fight and finish the oppressors, Or I will be responsible for aiding and abetting the tormentors. It is loud and clear. I am Buddhist, a patriot, and a man with guts, Buddhism didn’t teach people to be cowards. Only those fake Buddhists on this page say that the Buddhists are backboneless, and the Buddha only taught meditation and nothing related to everyday living.

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