Anti-Muslim Violence Spreads to Town in Central Burma

By Zarni Mann 30 May 2013

RANGOON—Anti-Muslim violence spread to central Burma on Wednesday night, when Buddhist mobs went on a rampage in Kyauk Gyi Township, Pegu Division, and destroyed two religious buildings, according to local police.

“A mosque with a madrasa was destroyed. [The buildings were] not burned downed. No casualties or injured were reported,” said an officer with the Kyauk Gyi Township Police Office, adding that the unrest occurred in Mone, a small town some 20 miles (30 km) away from Kyauk Gyi town.

Kyauk Gyi Township is located about 120 miles (200 km) north of Burma’s biggest city Rangoon.

“Local police and administration officers are there, investigating the problem. No one was detained yet for the destruction,” said the officer, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to talk to the media.

“The area is controlled by the local police. No curfew was announced as the situation is stable now,” he said. “Some senior Buddhist monks are giving sermons to the people, telling them to live in peace.”

On Tuesday night, Buddhist groups in Lashio, Shan State, went on a rampage in a Muslim neighborhood, burning down a mosque, an orphanage and 15 buildings. Deadly clashes continued in the town on Wednesday, leaving at least one person and four injured, according to initial reports.

Like in Lashio, the violence in Kyauk Gyi Township was sparked by a dispute in the community.

A local youth leader, who preferred not to be named, said two brothers-in-law had become embroiled in a drunken fight on Wednesday evening. One of the men was supposedly Muslim and the other a Buddhist, he said, adding that the latter was injured during the fight.

When police arrested the two men, bystanders intervened to demand that the Muslim man face more serious charges than his Buddhist brother-in-law. The crowds then walked up to the local police station.

“They gathered at the police station and urged to police to do it so. After that, they went to the mosque [and madrassa] and destroyed it,” the youth leader said.

In late March and April, central Burma was rocked by a wave of anti-Muslim violence, which first started in Meikhtila town in Mandalay Division. More than 10,000 people were displaced there and 44 were killed, before the attacks spread to more than ten townships in Mandalay and Pegu divisions where a few hundred Muslim-owned buildings were destroyed.