Anti-Muslim Attacks Hit Two More Pegu Division Towns

By The Irrawaddy 28 March 2013

RANGOON — Anti-Muslim riots continued to spread in Burma for the seventh consecutive day on Wednesday as unidentified mobs attacked Muslim neighborhoods in two more towns in Pegu Division, ransacking at least two mosques and more than 100 homes.

On Wednesday night, groups of attackers destroyed Muslim quarters in Monyo and Padigon, two townships located about 100 miles (170 km) north of Rangoon, according to police and Muslim organizations.

In Monyo “riots started at 7:10 pm Wednesday. A mosque was totally destroyed and nearly 100 Muslim-owned houses were ransacked,” an officer at Monyo Police Station told The Irrawaddy, adding that no casualties were reported. He did not elaborate on who the attackers were.

In a similar incident, a mosque and 20 houses were destroyed in Padigon Township, located about 30 miles (50 km) away from Monyo, according to Kyaw Khin, chief secretary of the All Burma Muslim Federation. “It happened from 11 pm Wednesday until 2 in the morning,” he said.

An officer at Padigon Police Station declined to comment on the reported incident there, saying that he was unauthorized to talk to the media.

Fierce anti-Muslim riots first broke out in Meikhtila town on March 20, killing 40 people and injuring dozens, according to government figures. At least 35 suspected rioters have been detained and the government has declared a state of emergency in the Meikhtila region.

About 12,000 townspeople were displaced by the violence and they are temporarily staying in schools, a football stadium and local Buddhist monasteries, according to a UN situation report released on Monday.

The violence subsequently spread to a total of six Mandalay Division townships before hitting Muslim communities further south in Pegu Division. Okpho, Gyobingauk, Zigon, Minhla and Nattalin townships were affected there on Monday and Tuesday, and hundreds of homes and several mosques were destroyed.

State media reported on Thursday that dusk-till-dawn curfews have been imposed in all of these townships and that security forces broke up mobs on several occasions. In Zigon Township security forces fired warning shots at attackers on Wednesday night, according government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar.

A Pegu Division police officer, who declined to be named as he was unauthorized to speak to the media, said on Thursday that 14 suspected attackers had been arrested in the region so far.

Despite the reported government action, authorities have remained mum on the identity of the attackers, while there has been a dearth of information on casualty numbers and Muslim refugees as a result of recent attacks.

The All Burma Muslim Federation said on Tuesday that the ongoing violence is not a result of tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities, but a well-planned campaign to instigate public unrest. It said authorities were failing to properly protect Muslim neighborhoods and it urged the prosecution of those who masterminded the unrest.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement released Wednesday morning that the government was “systematically restricting humanitarian aid” to Rohingya Muslim refugee camps in western Burma’s Arakan State. More 120,000 people have been displaced there by recurrent inter-communal violence between Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingyas since June 2012.

The New York-based group said that during the current communal violence in central Burma the government was also failing to protect the Muslim population.

“The unfortunate lesson from the violence in Arakan State is that so far the government does little to hold accountable those who violate the rights of Muslims in Burma,” said Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy director for Asia.

“By failing to stop violence and prosecute those who incite it, the country’s leaders are failing the test of reform,” he said.