Burma Police: 42 Arrested Over Sectarian Unrest

By Aye Aye Win 5 April 2013

RANGOON—Burma’s government has arrested dozens of people for their role in an outbreak of sectarian violence in central Burma last month, and some of them will go on trial within days, authorities said Thursday.

Advocate-General Ye Aung Myint said the accused “will be put on trial as quickly as possible … to deter further acts of violence,” but he gave no specific date on when hearings would begin.

Ye Aung Myint spoke to The Associated Press by phone from the city of Meikhtila, which was swept by several days of anti-Muslim unrest that saw armed Buddhist mobs burn Muslim-owned homes and shops. At least 43 people died and more than 12,000 others, most of them Muslims, were driven from their homes after the violence began on March 20.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the region and deployed the army to restore order. Sectarian violence spread to several towns afterward, but has since subsided.

State prosecutors are putting together 13 separate cases, and the first two will include three people who worked at Muslim gold shop where an argument broke out, sparking the unrest, Ye Aung Myint said. Another case that he said would be tried in the next few days involves three people who allegedly killed a Buddhist monk, whose death also fueled violence in Meikhtila.

Ye Aung Myint said police had so far arrested 26 people, half of them Muslim and half of them Buddhist. Police officer Kyi Shein, who is a member of the city’s anti-crime squad, said 42 people had been arrested, 30 of them Buddhists. It was not immediately clear why the two accounts differed.

Kyi Shein said no trial date had been set because investigations were continuing.

Containing the violence has posed a serious challenge to Thein Sein’s reformist administration as it attempts to institute political and economic liberalization after nearly half a century of military rule.