Mandalay Parents Pull Children from School amid Rumors of Religious Violence

Parents gather outside a school in Mandalay on Wednesday to attempt to pull their children from classes amid rumors that students were being target by both anti-Islamic and anti-Buddhist agitators. (Photo: Manthalay / The Irrawaddy)

Parents gather outside a school in Mandalay on Wednesday to attempt to pull their children from classes amid rumors that students were being target by both anti-Islamic and anti-Buddhist agitators. (Photo: Manthalay / The Irrawaddy)

Panicked residents of Mandalay pulled their children from schools on Wednesday as false rumors spread that violence had broken out between Buddhists and Muslims in the latest incidence of religious tension to wrack Burma.

Rumors that Maha Aung Myay Township’s State High School No. 3, where most of the students are Muslim, had been attacked and set on fire began to spread in the early afternoon, worrying parents and prompting them to gather in front of the school to retrieve their children. The crowd blocked the road and alarmed residents of the surrounding neighborhood.

“A rumor that the school was set on fire was spread. Then the parents came and police had to clear the way and security [measures] were taken. The rumors, the road blocks and the security scared the neighbors,” said a man who lives near the high school.

The man told The Irrawaddy that the rumors reached Pyigyidagun and Chanmyathazi townships in the southern part of the city, causing panic there as well. Schools in Myit Thar and other nearby townships were also affected.

“Rumors here were that there was a fire,” said Ko Shwe Maung from Pyigyidagun Township. “As people were worrying about the fire, a rumor was spread that a Buddhist child was struck by a car driven by a Muslim man, so that some angry people gathered and argued … and people were worrying that there might be conflicts so parents were trying to pull their children from school.”

He said shirtless men on motorcycles were later seen wielding iron rods and shouting through the streets in some parts of town, heightening tensions.

“Those men were shouting that there was a fire. People were scared and worrying that communal conflict would happen,” he added.

By the afternoon, the situation in Mandalay had returned to normal, with a small contingent of police officers guarding State High School No. 3 as well as other schools in the city.

An official from the Mandalay district administration office told The Irrawaddy that nothing serious had happened and that security forces had fanned out to control the situation and ensure that further unrest was prevented.

The tensions on Wednesday did not escalate to the point of previous altercations between Buddhists and Muslims. Just last week in Lashio, Shan State, one man was killed and more than 1,000 Muslims were displaced after a Muslim man allegedly set fire to a Buddhist woman, sparking anti-Muslim reprisals.

Larger-scale violence also took place in March, in central Burma’s Meikhtila, and last year more than 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims in western Arakan State, were displaced in two bouts of violence there. Hundreds have died over the last year in the recurring spates of religious violence.


4 Responses to Mandalay Parents Pull Children from School amid Rumors of Religious Violence

  1. I don’t want to be cynical but similar incidents will happen again and again. I have written a note a few days ago in the Irrawaddy about the security matters in Burma and earnestly urged the President to announce a stern warning against trouble makers that overwhelming force would be applied on them immediately. And the threat should be followed up with actions to show that the authorities really meant. President’s advisors should be aware that they fail to remind the President how dire the situations are right now.

    All citizens — whether they are Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims or others — are now living with fear of being attacked by strangers as well as their neighbors. People think their lives are in danger, their properties are at risk and their daily routine could be disrupted at any time.

    That is absolutely the failure of the government’s security measures. It’s due to the negligence and incompetence of the government led by President U Thein Sein. What’s the meaning of democratic reforms if one can’t even stay at home, leave alone to get out of his/her house, without fear?

    • Those kinds if strong warnings had already been said by the presidents but it is a joke when he didn’t follow through in punishing the aggressors and only punished the victim Muslims.

      The semi civilian government knows how dire the situation is but they want it like that so that they can act like “you need us, the military”.

  2. What can Buddhists do except to defend their religion rather than converting others? Buddhists in Myanmar and elsewhere are always the religious victims who are always in a defensive state. Let Myatswa Phaya protect Buddhists in Myanmar.

  3. Best thing you can do to protect people of all faiths, Roshan, is to learn a bit of tolerance and acceptance of diversity. If you want to practice your fascist ways, go and do it on the Moon.

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