Burma Forces Fire Warning Shots to Break Up Anti-Muslim Mobs

By The Associated Press 28 March 2013

RANGOON — Myanmar security forces fired shots into the air to break up new religious violence as attacks on Muslim targets continued despite government attempts to halt them, state television reported Wednesday.
The evening TV report said there were attacks against “religious buildings,” shops and houses on Tuesday and Wednesday in Pegu Division north of Rangoon, and warning shots were fired to stop the unrest. No casualties were reported.

It said curfews and a ban on public gatherings were imposed in two more townships, bringing the total to nine.

Residents contacted by phone said the targets were Muslims.

Occasional isolated violence involving majority Buddhists and minority Muslims has occurred for decades, even under the authoritarian military governments that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.

But tensions have heightened since last year when hundreds of people were killed and more than 100,000 made homeless in violence in western Burma between ethnic Arakan Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.

The recent religious unrest began on March 20 with rioting by Buddhists in the central city of Meikhtila that was sparked by a dispute between a Muslim gold shop owner and his Buddhist customers.

Authorities say calm has been restored there after at least 40 people died over three days.

State newspapers said Meikhtila is still under tight security and a state of emergency is still in place in order to prevent a recurrence of the violence.

Mar Mar, a resident of Okapho town, said a group of 50 people “came to destroy a few Muslim houses” on the outskirts of the town on Wednesday afternoon. She said soldiers have been deployed in downtown Okapho but security personnel did not arrive in time to stop the violence.

A resident of nearby Min Hla, speaking on condition of anonymity because of concerns about her safety, said two mosques and some shops were destroyed Wednesday and soldiers had to fire into the air to disperse the mob.

Incidents were also reported in the townships of Nattalin and Zeegon. All are less than 190 km north of Rangoon, the country’s biggest city.