Muslims Flee Village After Rioting, Perpetrators Remain Free

By Lawi Weng 27 June 2016

RANGOON — About 200 Muslim residents have fled Thuye Thamain village of Waw Township in Pegu Division out of fear for their safety, with only a small number of Muslim men remaining to take care of their property, according to local sources.

As was reported by The Irrawaddy, Muslims in the village sought refuge in the local police station after an altercation between a Buddhist and a Muslim resident on Thursday drew a mob that proceeded to destroy a mosque, a storehouse and the home of a Muslim family.

Police have yet to take serious action against those said to be involved in the rioting. On Sunday, some locals were brought in but released after some brief questioning.

While visiting the village on Friday, Irrawaddy reporters witnessed the alleged perpetrators driving around freely on motorbikes, passing close to police officers and stopping to observe the work of the reporters.

The Irrawaddy journalists also saw several men near the village’s river jetty brandishing sticks and shouting threats at Muslims who were making their way toward the police station for sanctuary.

This has only heightened the insecurity felt by local Muslims, prompting them to flee the village, despite claims made by local police that the situation was now “stable.”

Win Shwe, a Muslim community leader, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that some had left by boat and others by motorbike, beginning on Friday. Many intended to stay with relatives in other villages in Pegu Division.

The Muslim community, already small, is now significantly diminished in Thuye Thamain—a village formerly of around 1,500 Buddhist households and 37 Muslim households.

“Only men remained in the village to take care of their property,” said Win Shwe.

He said that his own family had left already, and only he had stayed behind. “I am worried about them [local Buddhists] coming to take my property from my house. Therefore, I have to stay. There are other men similar too me,” he said.

Ohn Lwin, a police chief for the village, said, “The situation is already stable. Violence only happened on Thursday. It has been fine since then. But, there were people who fled from the village.”

The Pegu Division government has yet to give orders to detain those involved in the rioting, according to the local police. Some police officers were not happy about it, but they said they could not do anything. Officers by the station were heard commenting on how it would have been “easy” to arrest those responsible.

The Irrawaddy attempted to talk to locals from the Buddhist majority about the incident, but they claimed to know nothing or refrained from commenting.