Portrait of A Displaced People: Lashio’s Muslims at Mansu Temple

A mother cradles her child amongst the 1,400 strong crowd of displaced Muslims in Lashio. To see more photos click on the box below. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

LASHIO, Shan State — On Tuesday night an argument between a Muslim man and a Buddhist petrol vendor sparked another outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in Burma, this time in Lashio, Shan State.

The northeastern mountain town was suddenly torn apart by inter-communal violence, as Buddhist mobs went on a rampage, destroying Muslim-owned shops and religious buildings, and clashing with Muslim men on the street.

By Thursday, hundreds of Muslim families had been forced to flee the violence, often at a moment’s notice. They were only able to carry a few basic belongings and rushed their children to safety. Armed police and soldiers trucked the Muslims away from the town center, where many owned shops and businesses, and brought them to a Buddhist temple complex called Mansu.

Their lives thrown into turmoil, more than 1,400 displaced Muslims are suddenly stranded at the temple and reliant on emergency food donations by the World Food Program.

Most are ordinary Burmese citizens — mothers and fathers, extended families — who lost homes, businesses and livelihoods. Their faces carry expressions of deep sadness and anxiety, and the looks in their eyes seem like a silent plea for you to understand their plight.

And whilst the adults understand the full gravity of their situation, children make new friends, find ways to amuse themselves and continue to smile and play amidst the palpable fear and uncertainty which pervades the scene

All across Burma, Muslim minority communities now live in daily fear of a sudden outbreak of violence carried out by a small, radical group, who claim to represent Burma’s Buddhist majority.

After anti-Muslim violence broke out in Arakan State about one year ago, these groups have sought to exploit a religious divide in the country. They have destroyed and looted Muslim neighborhoods and business with impunity, driving thousands of families from towns and villages where they lived for decades.

These newly displaced people represent a human a tragedy which risks undoing Burma’s celebrated democratic transition and dashing the hopes of those who wish a better future for all of the country’s citizens.


10 Responses to Portrait of A Displaced People: Lashio’s Muslims at Mansu Temple

  1. We should find out that “small radical group” and crush them.

  2. Mr. Steve Tickner,
    Buddhists by nature of their religious influence and teachings are not aggressive.
    There must be specific and serious reasons why they take the offensive against Islam. People who know how militant, aggressive and cunning many (too many!) fanatic Moslems can be, understand psychologically the actions/attacks against them, though objectively not justified. Particularly for journalists, inclusive western ones, it would be desirable to write articles on base of analytical background information and not just using dialectically “sensational and emotional factors”.

  3. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    Kill the Jews and the Christians if they do not convert to Islam or refuse to pay Jizya tax (9:29)

    To deny that Islam is the issue is to deny reality. Study Islam and pay particular attention to “it is good” to lie and deceive to advance Islam (taqiyya), the penalty of changing one’s mind about being a Muslim is a death sentence, the daily ritualistic “brainwashing” of praying 7 times a day required to be a Muslim, women are inferior, and the list goes on a mile long of what is wrong. Yet the liberals are blind as usual.

    Its not racism, its not sects of differences of opinions – it is a fascist ideology of hate, intolerance, and world domination as the goal wrapped in the cloak of a religion that is the issue – Islam.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  4. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    What a sheer folly of moderate article – Distortion of perpetrator is playing out very well that Irrawaddy’s made a big fuss of Muslim boohoo in the communal riots since day one. How come Muslim are innocent victims when the instigators of each and every single one of riots are themselves!

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  5. If a western educated man and travelling around the world wrote such shallow comments and indirectly attacking the writer of this article, I believe he is not western origin but like me a Kaw Taw Kalar. or Maugi Manush. Why suddenly Muslims become so rude to be attacked by Mob of civilized Burmese Buddhist. These are the works of Junta thugs, some nationalist extremists and paid Monks. Old Junta thugs want to divert people minds from Chinese blood sucking projects in Burma. They had committed lot of contracts with Chinese. The whole villages in Kyawk Pu and Mikttla were burned to ashes, still some extremist are trying to justify the killing with faults excuses and reasons. I doubt they are also paid by Junta Thugs.

  6. Buddhism has become a breeding ground of terrorism. Burma has become a breeding ground of Buddhist terrors.

  7. The picture looks so sad. These thugs, who looted and burned down the Muslims’ homes, are not going to be stopped unless a united community from all walks of life (Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, all ethnic groupds) stand up against these atrocities.

    But that’s not going to happen anytime soon in Myanmar because an average Burmese probably has a negative opinion of the Muslims (view them and many others as forever outsiders).

    A more permanent solution requires a change in the values and attitudes of the people which can take generations. To start with, the national leaders must strongly condemn these cowardly acts (not some weak press release statements). The independent media must bring out the heart wrenching stories of the victims (to raise the level of empathy). The education system has to change to include social responsibility, respect and civility for people (regardless of race, religion or ethnicity) into the school curriculum. There are so many things that need to be done before these racial/religious strives can be effectively cured.

  8. @ Zaw Win – The German Traveller was being very objective of the situation and is criticizing the journalists for not reporting what’s causing the tension. You need to read carefully before commenting next time. He wasn’t being anti Burmese.

  9. Human beings by nature are aggressive. Buddhists are nothing different.
    There is an aggressive anti-Muslim movement going on around the world.
    This movement is trying to justify the killing of innocent Muslims anywhere in the world.
    It is trying to coverup the political and economic motives behind the attacks on Muslims by accusing all Muslims of being terrorists.
    This movement will cause more bloodshed and claim more lives.
    We will not stand it, we will avenge the killing of our brothers.
    We are Muslims united from Indonesia to the United States.

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