Security Tight in Mandalay after Outbreak of Communal Violence

communal violence in Burma

A crowd gathers at the corner of 27th and 82nd roads in Mandalay during a clash between Buddhist and Muslim communities on Tuesday evening. (Photo: Teza Hlaing / The Irrawaddy)

MANDALAY — More than a thousand police have been deployed in central Mandalay after clashes between Buddhists and Muslims left more than three people, including one policeman, injured late Tuesday night.

Police officials declined to comment on the situation, but hundreds of barricades could be seen along 26th Street, from the southwest corner of the moat surrounding Mandalay Palace west to Zegyo market, where the clashes took place.

Galoneni Sayadaw and other leading Buddhist monks from Burma’s second largest city attempted to calm down the angry mobs, but without much success.

“We tried our best, but they would not listen. Some of them were drunk and hard to control. Whatever happens to them depends only on their own behavior. We just don’t want to see Mandalay burn because of racial and religious hatred,” Galoneni Sayadaw told reporters at the scene.

As the riot spread late into the night, angry men carrying canes and bricks were seen wandering along 26th Street, between 86th and 81st Streets, where the majority of the city’s Muslims live.

Rioters from both sides used slingshots, stones and pieces of broken brick and concrete to attack each other. When the police came to control the situation, they were accused of siding with the Muslims and pelted with a shower of stones.

Angry Muslim men also threw bricks at police, resulting in minor injuries to two officers. The windshields of some nearby vehicles were also smashed.

Some people, including a couple of monks, prevented journalists from taking pictures, in

some cases forcibly removing memory cards from their cameras. They accused the journalists of bias because they were only taking photos of Buddhist rioters.

The mobs were finally dispersed at around 3 am on Wednesday after more police were deployed along the road.

Stones and broken bricks still covered 26th Street after dawn on Wednesday morning, and a number of signboards had been destroyed. Some old tires that rioters had set on fire were also still smoldering.

Witnesses said the clash began at around 10 pm on Tuesday after a group of Muslim men reportedly slashed three Burmese people on 83rd Street, between 25th and 26th streets.

“We were driving along 83rd Street when about 10 Kalar men carrying swords suddenly ran toward us and started slashing people on the road. My friend’s son, on another motorbike, hurt his shoulder and we had to run for our lives,” said a Buddhist woman, using a derogatory term for Muslims living in Burma .

The woman, who asked not be named, said the boy and two other injured men were sent to hospital when the police arrived and an angry mob suddenly appeared.

“People told us later that the men with the swords were Muslims, but I don’t know what happened. By the time we had escaped, the angry mob, carrying bamboo canes, sticks and stones, had already gathered and started throwing stones at the police,” the woman added.

Riot Fueled by Facebook Rumors?

Although the cause of the initial attack is unknown, it is believed to be linked to reports that have spread widely on Facebook in recent days that a Buddhist maid had been raped by her Muslim employers.

Since the rumors first started to spread on June 28, there have been calls to destroy a teashop owned by the brother of the woman’s employers.

By June 30, fears of an outbreak of violence prompted police to guard the predominantly Muslim neighborhood where the teashop is located. This in turn attracted large crowds of Muslim men, who were later persuaded by the police and Muslim elders to return to their homes.

According to the initial report, the maid was raped while traveling to Naypyidaw with her employers. The incident was reported at a police station in Pyinmana, near where it allegedly occurred.

The owner of the teashop told reporters that his two brothers had been charged with rape and that police in Yamethin Township were searching for them. However, the two accused men fled before they could be arrested, saying they did not believe the case would be handled fairly.

At this point, U Wirathu, a firebrand Buddhist monk who has been accused of stoking anti-Muslim sentiment in Burma through his Buddhist nationalist 969 movement, called the owner of the teashop and told him his brothers should be prepared to face justice.

“He said that if they were really men, they would be willing to face the truth. Later, he called the wife of one of my brothers and told her he would tear down the earth to find them,” the teashop owner said.

U Wirathu later denied making such statements. Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday evening, he said he only advised the teashop owner on how to resolve the tensions peacefully.

“I called him, but didn’t say anything threatening. I just said that things would only get worse if they [the brothers] didn’t come forward and explain what happened,” said U Wirathu.

He added that he first learned of the rape incident online.

“I read about it on the Thit Htoo Lwin blog and didn’t trust it at first. But later we found out that the girl was being kept in protective custody at Yamethin police station and yes, the case was registered under the rape act,” he said.

However, the wife of one of the accused said they do not have maid and that her husband was not traveling to Naypyidaw on the day the rape was reported to have occurred.

9 Responses to Security Tight in Mandalay after Outbreak of Communal Violence

  1. However, the wife of one of the accused said they do not have maid – is but a blatant lie and worthless excuse to give a cover-up to the incident. The accused must come to the open and give enough reasons behind his escapade with another woman. His wife’s statement alone is not enough to prove that her husband is innocent. The ‘raped’ woman should also be properly checked and if possible, dna test done to ensure the rapist’s identity. Burma’s lax law for rape is to blame for the abnormal rate of rape everywhere. The sentence, if proven, should be 12 years RI in the minimum with choice for death sentence. Only then this ‘rape cases’ that are the basic causes of discontent between communities will minimize.

  2. how about hindu ? are they safe?

  3. If the rule of law is in the land, people will not need the law in their own hands. Thein Sein as useless as Maung Pauk Kyaing from Myanmar folklore. He looks dumb and idiot. He is dumb and idiot. A president who is not commander in chief is Thein Sein the puppet. He will even become a muppet soon.

  4. Muslim side side said they have no maid. But police believes this case and open the case. When Shan girl(one Japanese wife) with her lawyer went to police station in Rangoon to report a case for one man cheating her belonging, that Shan girl was locked to be investigated day and night to cause her to jump to death.
    Psy wirathu should go to Kachin and Chin state to find which fox soldiers rapes those ethnics. Warn those fox soldiers and fox not to avoid justice. Why psy wirathu has double standard on those 2 same raped cases. Or Psy wirathy might accepts that 2008 nargic constitution can rape all ethnics by fox than shwe’s soldiers any time, any reasons and any where.

  5. Find the one who put the rumour on the face book to arouse psy wirathu. It might be fox’s paramilitary or USDP. Psy wirathu should empahasize this face book’s culprit instead of finding the Muslim side for warning. Psy wirathu is not our policemen and authorised investigator to search the criminals. If so, Psy wirathu should go to Nay-pyi-daw to find fox for rapist soldiers on all ethnics. Also ask how many ethics were raped by fox for his promotion and wining the Burmese civil war.

  6. Disrobe wirathu and take action on him immediately.

  7. Opening case (FIR) is not yet proof of crime had been done, yet have to wait evidences in the court. Taking advantage of majority on minority is not a justice. Face Book is always lies, it is not law book. Law in international standard should prevail in Burma ( Myanmar ). Bama peoples are mostly inocent and ignorant, they want to follow blindly, so most of the educated calss has the responsibilty to give them Mass educations starting from schools.

    By creating all the time rape case has been done by Muslims is a style of a cause to destroy Muslims properties and lives is not a tollerable any more and can lead a riots from time to time and make the way out for military to make a coup.

  8. Are we sure about the rape? Perhaps no. Are we sure that the Buddhist monks attacked first? Of course not. But a Burmese who bought kun-ya betel or paan, was attacked without any provocation by a Muslim though he was buying the betel from a Muslim shop. If the rape was a made-up story, where is the Muslim guy named in the allegations? Why isn’t he speaking up? Why is his wife speaking on his behalf? Did his wife help commit the rape? I hope not. But there are more questions to the incidence than anyone can answer. The one really to answer is the Muslim guy. But he is absconding for reasons he knows best. Many commentators here will say that because of his fear for ‘life’ – he is absconding. In fact, the man can stay away yet take the help of a lawyer to submit his prayers to the court of law. Instead this Muslim alleged rapist made he entire situation fucked-up. The rape victim and her family came out to the open instead, and held a press briefing. So which side should we stand?

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