Thandwe ‘Stable’ After Anti-Muslim Attack: Official

By Lawi Weng 1 July 2013

RANGOON — Government security forces have stabilized the situation in Thandwe after an outbreak of anti-Muslim violence destroyed four homes in the town in southern Arakan State on Sunday, a local official said. He added that one Muslim man was arrested for an alleged rape case that sparked the unrest.

Zaw Moe Aung, an official at Thandwe Township’s department for information and public relations, said three Muslim-owned homes were torched and another destroyed on Sunday night, while several cars were damaged.

“The situation is more stable now, and all shops and schools are open as usual. Security forces have been deployed in the town,” he said on Monday afternoon, adding that a curfew had been imposed.

Zaw Moe Aung said that authorities were investigating the violence but had yet to make any arrests.

He said reports of the alleged rape of a 18-year-old Buddhist woman by a Muslim man named Min Naing, 29, had caused the unrest on Sunday night. “We have detained one person who allegedly raped the woman. He was a motorbike taxi driver and he is Kaman, a Muslim man,” the official said.

Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said in a Facebook post on Monday morning that “a man of another religion” had been charged with raping the woman.

After reports of the supposed incident spread through Thandwe, a group of around 50 people gathered at the local police station and then went on to destroy two homes at around 7 pm, Ye Htut said. “The Myanmar police force is working to find the offenders and take action in accordance with the law,” he added.

A Muslim inhabitant of Thandwe said that a Buddhist mob people had burned down three homes and destroyed five others in Dwarawaddy quarter No. 1, while shouting “Kill all the Muslims!”

The situation in the town remained tense on Monday, many shops remained closed and the streets were largely empty, he said, adding that local Muslims were seeking permission from authorities to retrieve their possessions from the destroyed homes before they are looted.

The Muslim community feared another mob attack might occur tonight, the man said. “We are worried that if violence breaks out, we will be trapped in the town,” he told The Irrawaddy by phone. “If the authorities can control the situation then there will be no violence.”

Thein San, a local Arakanese Buddhist, said the Buddhist community was angered by the supposed rape. “We want to have justice in this case. The authorities should act as soon as they can,” he said.

Shwe Maung, a lawmaker for the ruling Union Solidarity Development Party who represents Arakan’s Buthidaung Township, said that authorities should decisively quell any further violence.

On Sunday night, he said, security forces had failed to act. “There are questions as to why did not arrest those [attackers], or why did not shoot in the air to break up the unrest, it seems they have no methods to end such unrest,” Shwe Maung said.

An estimated 130,000 people live in Thandwe, a coastal town in southern Arakan State, and about a fifth of the population in Muslim, according to Zaw Moe Aung. The town has an airport and is located close to the popular beach resort Ngapali.

The Muslim population of Thandwe comprises mostly Kaman and other recognized Muslim minorities, unlike in northern Arakan State, which has a large Muslim population who identify themselves as Rohingyas. The latter group is not recognized by the government as Burmese citizens.

Thandwe Township was largely spared from the bloody inter-communal violence that broke out in Sittwe, Maungdaw and other townships further north one year ago, where Arakanese Buddhists clashed with Rohingya Muslims.

The violence left 192 people dead and about 140,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced, according to UN and government figures. Almost half of the displaced are Muslims who were chased out Sittwe town, where whole Muslim neighborhoods were burned down.

Arakan State authorities and Burma’s central government have been accused of supporting the Buddhist mob attacks on Muslim minorities and of doing little to prosecute the Buddhist perpetrators of the violence.