1 Killed, 4 Injured As Sectarian Clashes Continue in Lashio

By Kyaw Phyo Tha 29 May 2013

RANGOON—At least one person died and four were injured as fresh clashes occurred between Buddhists and Muslims in Lashio, Shan State, on Wednesday afternoon, an official said. A journalist working for the Democratic Voice of Burma was also injured while covering the riots.

Earlier on Wednesday, officials claimed that order had been restored in the town in northeastern Burma after anti-Muslim violence first erupted on Tuesday night.

“According to initial reports, one is dead and four are injured” in Lashio, President Thein Sein’s spokesman Ye Htut wrote in Facebook post on Wednesday night. “Security forces fired warning shots during riots, which happened around 2 pm,” he stated.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported from Lashio that hundreds of young Buddhist men were driving and walking around the town on Wednesday evening waving iron rods, machetes and bamboo poles.

Inkura, a local Buddhist monk, told The Irrawaddy by phone that Muslims fought with Buddhists near the town’s Muslim quarter on Wednesday afternoon.

During these clashes, he said, eight Buddhists were injured and two of his friends were killed. “Muslims killed one Buddhist riding a motorcycle in the Seven Quarter,” he claimed, adding that further casualties occurred during street fights between the groups.

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) said late on Wednesday afternoon that one of its reporters had been attacked during the unrest. “Journalist working for DVB attacked and injured by mob while covering Lashio riots. Camera was taken and SIM card,” the news outlet said on its Twitter feed.

Early Wednesday afternoon, officials claimed that order had been restored in the town after anti-Muslim violence first erupted the day before, reportedly destroying many Muslim-owned buildings.

“One mosque, a Muslim orphanage and 15 Muslim-owned shops were torched in Lashio [Tuesday] night” Kyaw Khin, chief secretary of the All Myanmar Muslim Federation, said by phone.

Buddhist mobs in Lashio, a mountain town of around 150,000 people located close to the Chinese border, went on a rampage on Tuesday night following a dispute during which a supposedly Muslim man set a Buddhist woman on fire.

Government spokesperson Ye Htut said the mayhem occurred after a crowd surrounded the local police station to demand that the suspected perpetrator be handed over to them. When the police failed to do so, they attacked Muslim buildings in Lashio.

“People demanded that the police hand over the man to them. The police refused, so the mob attacked the mosque,” said a Buddhist monk Khema, who witnessed the scene.

Ye Htut said in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning that a man named Ne Win, 48, got into an argument with a 24-year-old petrol vendor, Aye Win, and then doused her with petrol and set her on fire.

“The police detained Ne Win and they found two methamphetamine tablets in his pocket. He was charged with causing severe injuries, and drug-related charges,” Ye Htut wrote.

Around noon on Wednesday, an official at the Lashio District Police Office told The Irrawaddy that a curfew had been imposed the night before and the town’s streets were quiet and shops were closed.

“We detained the man [Ne Win], and the victim was hospitalized with burn injuries. One mosque and a Muslim orphanage were torched,” he said, adding that the reasons for the unrest were “under investigation.”

Lashio is the latest town to be hit by anti-Muslim violence in Burma. Large-scale clashes between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims first broke out in west Burma’s Arakan State in June and October last year, killing 192 people and displacing 140,000.

In late March, inter-communal clashes erupted in Meikhtila town, Mandalay Division, where 44 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and more than 10,000 displaced. A total of 10 townships in central Burma were subsequently affected and remain under a state of emergency. On May 1, clashes between Muslims and Buddhists occurred in Okkan Township, located about 100 km north of Burma’s biggest city, Rangoon.

Additional reporting by Lawi Weng and Zarni Mann.