2 Dead as Religious Rioting Continues in Mandalay

By The Irrawaddy 3 July 2014

MANDALAY — Rioting continued in Burma’s second-biggest city on Wednesday night, leaving at least two people dead, a senior official said Thursday morning.

One Buddhist man and one Muslim man were killed on the second night of religious violence in Mandalay, according to Border Affairs and Security Minister Aung Kyaw Moe, who said at least 14 people have been injured since the clashes between Buddhists and Muslims first began Tuesday night.

Speaking at the Mandalay Division Police office, the minister told reporters that rioting broke out again in the city’s downtown area at 11 pm on Wednesday night. A mob gathered near Zegyo market in Chan Aye Thazan Township, while motorcycle drivers carrying knives and sticks drove along 35th and 84th streets, smashing shop windows and attacking vehicles they believed were owned by Muslims.

More than 1,000 security officials were deployed to stabilize the situation, the minister said.

Buddhist Tun Tun was found beaten and wounded at about midnight after being stabbed with a knife, and he died on the way to the hospital, the minister said.

Muslim Soe Min, 49, was beaten to death at about 4 am by a mob at the corner of 83rd and 31st streets, according to a witness. He was reportedly attacked by the mob on his way to a mosque for morning prayers.

The minister said four people had been arrested for their alleged role in the rioting, and that the government did not currently have plans to impose a curfew in the city.

He added that the violence was initially sparked by an inflammatory post on social media, and he urged the public to be careful about what they write online.

Clashes between Buddhists and Muslims first broke out on Tuesday night, after a blogger claimed that a Buddhist woman was raped by her Muslim employers. The blog post, which had not been verified with the police, was shared online by more than 2,000 people, including nationalist Buddhist monk U Wirathu, who leads an anti-Muslim movement known as 969.

A lawsuit has been filed for the alleged rape, according to state-run media.

President Thein Sein did not directly comment on the rioting during his monthly radio address on Wednesday morning, nor did he lay out plans for the government’s response.

He did, however, urge the Burmese public to avoid incitement of unrest for the sake of the country’s political and economic reforms.

“As our country is a multi-racial and –religious nation, the current reform process will be successful only when stability is maintained through cooperation of all citizens by living harmoniously with one another,” he said.

“For the reform to be successful, I would like to urge all to avoid instigation and behavior that incites hatred among our fellow citizens.”

Mandalay Division Chief Minister Ye Myint called on religious leaders to collaborate with the government to settle the situation in the city, during a press conference at the divisional government office on Thursday morning.

Bouts of religious violence have broken out in several cities across Burma over the past year, but this is the first time rioting has hit Mandalay. In March 2013, anti-Muslim violence in the central Burma town of Meikhtila, near Mandalay, left about 40 people dead.