More Anti-Muslim Riots Reported Overnight

By The Irrawaddy 27 March 2013

RANGOON — Mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods in two more townships in Pegu Division on Tuesday night, a day after similar attacks were carried out in several other communities in the same area.

The incidents, which continued into Wednesday morning, took place in Zigon and Nattalin townships, located about 100 miles (160 km) north of Rangoon. Local police confirmed that several buildings, including mosques, had been ransacked, but no casualties or cases of arson were reported.

An officer at the Nattalin Police Station told The Irrawaddy that a mob had begun attacking a mosque and buildings in Muslim neighborhood at around 10 pm on Tuesday. He added that the situation had been brought under control by 12:20 am.

However, a local resident said that the police were unable to contain the growing mob, even with the support of civilians and Buddhist monks who had gathered to defend the neighborhood. In the end, the resident said, the security forces agreed to allow the rioters to continue with their rampage after they said they would not kill anyone or burn down any buildings.

A few hours later, rioters ransacked a mosque and Muslim-owned buildings in Zigon, which lies a short distance south of Nattalin.

“The attackers destroyed 14 buildings and looted shops, but there was no arson or casualties,” said an officer at Zigon Police Station, adding that the attacks took place from 2:40 to 5:30 am on Wednesday.

“When we disbanded them, the attackers ran away, gathered in another place and tried to attack another area. It was like a hit-and-run scenario,” he said.

On Monday night and Tuesday morning, mobs attacked Muslim neighborhoods in the townships of Okpho and Gyobingauk, located more than 100 miles north of Rangoon in Pegu Division. The state-run newspaper Kyemon reported on Wednesday that five people suspected of involvement in the Okpho attack had been detained.

Since last Wednesday, at least seven anti-Muslim riots have been reported across Burma, including in Meikhtila, where the recent wave of sectarian violence began. According to the latest official figures, 40 people have been reported killed in the central Burmese city, and at least 35 people have been detained on suspicion of involvement in the violence.

On Tuesday, the All Burma Muslim Federation released a statement saying that the ongoing violence is not between Buddhist and Muslim people, but is a well-planned campaign to instigate public unrest.

“We’ve also found out that relevant authorities failed to practice security measures in full force to protect Muslim people,” the statement said.

The announcement also urges the government to find out who masterminded the unrest, and to take legal action against them and anyone else involved in the violence.