BREAKING: Mob Burns Down Muslim Prayer Hall in Hpakant Township

By Zarni Mann & May Sitt Paing 1 July 2016

MANDALAY — A Muslim prayer hall in Lone Khin village of Hpakant Township, Kachin State was burned down by a mob on Friday afternoon.

Nearly 30 Muslim families in the village have fled since the outbreak of the riot.

According to residents of the village, the Muslim community had received an ultimatum from local Buddhist nationalists to demolish by Thursday what they claimed was an illegal extension to the Muslim prayer hall.

However, residents have claimed that the disputed structure was in fact an abandoned storeroom that had been used by the Ministry of Construction while building a bridge connecting the village some months ago.

After local Muslims dismantled the structure, the Buddhist nationalists then demanded that they demolish the actual prayer hall, claiming it had been constructed illegally.

“The Muslim community refused to demolish their prayer hall. Their religious leader said they would only do so if the government declared it illegal,” one of the local residents told the Irrawaddy. “That’s why the mob came to burn it.”

“When three fire engines came to put out the fire, they were obstructed by the mob,” he said.

He added that the mob was mostly made up of outsiders, numbering several hundred.

The police and army have now blocked the bridge on the road to Lone Khin village from Hpakant town.

A duty officer at the Mohnyin District police station confirmed the incident but refused to give detailed information because “the case is now under investigation.”

“We have no idea who was behind the incident. At the moment, state and district-level security forces are on the scene,” the officer said.

The incident comes after anti-Muslim rioting far away from Hpakant in Pegu Division’s Thuye Thamain village in Waw Township on June 23, which resulted in the destruction of a mosque, a Muslim cemetery, and a house and storeroom belonging to a Muslim family. Authorities chose not to take action against any of the perpetrators there.