Man Sentenced to 26 Years for Incident That Sparked Lashio Riots

By Lawi Weng 12 June 2013

RANGOON — A Muslim man who was accused of setting fire to a Buddhist petrol vendor in Lashio was sentenced to 26 years’ imprisonment on Tuesday, an official said. The incident on May 28 sparked an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence in the Shan State town, which displaced about 1,400 Muslim residents.

Lashio Township Court began proceedings against the man, called Ne Win, on Monday and he was convicted the next day, according to Shan State government spokesperson Wai Lin.

“The court sentenced him to 26 years, on four charges in total,” he said. “We transferred him yesterday to Lashio Prison at 2:20 pm local time,” he said, adding that Ne Win had been charged with attempted murder, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, and two drug-related charges.

Another 44 people are being detained for their alleged role in the Lashio riots and they have yet to be charged, Wai Lin said. He added that most of the detained were Buddhists.

The judge in the case, who is also called Ne Win, told The Irrawaddy that the accused had declined legal counsel from a lawyer. “We did not ask him many questions during the trial because he confessed to every charge,” the judge added.

The Muslim man Ne Win had become embroiled in a dispute with a female petrol vendor Aye Aye Win, a 26-year-old Buddhist, on May 28. He then doused her body with petrol and set her on fire, causing terrible burns to parts of her body, including her face. It was reported that a small amount of methamphetamine was found in his pockets following his arrest.

The victim’s younger sister, who declined to be named for security reasons, said the family would accept the sentence “even though we are not satisfied with it.”

She said that Aye Aye Win had been transferred to a Mandalay Hospital where her health had improved, although she remains in pain.

The May 28 incident caused an outburst of anti-Muslim violence in Lashio and for several days Buddhist mobs clashed with Muslim residents. Dozens of Muslim-owned buildings were destroyed in the mountain town in northeastern Burma, and about 1,400 Muslim families were forced to flee. Many have since returned to their neighborhoods.

The riots were the latest in a series of outbreaks of violence between Buddhist and Muslims in Burma this year. Waves of deadly inter-communal violence first rocked Arakan State one year ago, and in recent months unrest also spread to parts of central Burma, such as Pegu and Mandalay divisions, where scores were killed.