Mob Attacks Mosque Near Bagan After Allegations of Buddhist Maid’s Abuse

By Zarni Mann 21 September 2014

MANDALAY — A mob of about 100 people damaged a house, shop and mosque on Saturday in Myit Chay, a small town near the popular tourism destination of Bagan, after rumors spread that a Muslim man had beaten his Buddhist maid in the latest case of communal violence to hit Burma.

Heavy security has been deployed and the situation was reportedly calm as of Sunday night, with no injuries or deaths resulting from the incident. Myit Chay sits just across the Irrawaddy River from Bagan, a tourism hot spot known for the thousands of Buddhist temples that dot its plains.

According to witnesses in Myit Chay, an angry mob gathered and attacked the town’s mosque on Saturday evening, after word spread that a Muslim man named Moe Win had beaten his Buddhist maid after she asked him for her salary.

“The news that the Buddhist girl was beaten and chased away by the dog of the Muslim man, and was later admitted to the hospital, was spreading since Saturday evening. The mob gathered and threw stones at their house and shop,” said an eyewitness who asked for anonymity, fearing reprisals.

A duty officer from the Myit Chay police later refuted the rumors that the girl had been hospitalized.

“Actually, the girl is not hospitalized. But she said she was beaten up and had some pain in her arms and chest. We are trying to take action against those who caused the mayhem,” he said.

Residents of Myit Chay said Moe Win’s house and a construction shop owned by his brother were attacked, as was the town mosque. Police estimated the damages at 400,000 kyats (US$400).

“Elders from the town are urging the people to go back home and are controlling the situation and trying to preventing the violence from spreading,” said a resident.

According to police sources, Moe Win and his wife were arrested on Sunday, and are facing four charges under Burma’s Penal Code in connection with the alleged abuse of the maid.

The chief minister of Magwe Division, Phone Maw Shwe, paid a visit to Myit Chay on Sunday, asking residents to do their part to prevent the spread of violence beyond the town.

The situation is currently under control, with the security presence in the town bolstered by the Pakokku District police. Pakokku is located about 20 miles east of Myit Chay.

According to the district police office, security forces have been deployed in Myit Chay, and Pakokku as well, to prevent the potential spread of clashes.

Saturday’s mob attack was just the latest incident of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma, which has seen similar cases play out in nearly a dozen towns in Burma over the last two years. Most recently, Mandalay was the scene of three days of rioting after rumors—later found to be false—that a Muslim man had raped his Buddhist maid spread largely via social media.