Village near Meikhtila in Flames, as Violence Flares Again

By The Irrawaddy 24 March 2013

MEIKHTILA — Dozens of building were destroyed by fire on Saturday in the latest outbreak of violence in central Burma since clashes between Buddhists and Muslims began last Wednesday, leaving at least 32 people dead.

Local sources said that a brawl broke out at a Muslim-owned teashop in Ywa Tan, a village in Yamethin Town, Mandalay Division, at around 7 pm Saturday night. In the ensuing violence, a mob torched 58 buildings, including the teashop, the sources said.

It was unclear who the attackers were, but 50 of the destroyed buildings were reportedly Muslim-owned. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Yamethin is located about 34 miles (55 km) from Meikhtila, the scene of three days of violence that left at least 32 people dead, according to the latest official figures announced by state-run television on Saturday night.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy, an official from Yamethin Police Station confirmed that a fire had broken out in Ywa Tin at around 7 pm Saturday, but he declined to say if it was related to the violence in Meikhtila.

“We are still investigating the cause of this incident and who is involved, so at this moment we can’t disclose any detailed information,” he said.

In Saturday’s broadcast, state media said that a total of 8,189 people had been displaced by the violence, with most now taking shelter in six camps set up by the government.

Order was largely restored in the city by Saturday, after a state of emergency was ordered by President Thein Sein on Friday and the army was brought in to patrol the streets.

On Sunday morning, Vijay Nambiar, the special advisor on Burma to the UN secretary-general, visited relief camps in the city and called on the government to punish those responsible for the riots.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Nambiar said he was encouraged to learn that some individuals in both the Buddhist and Muslim communities had bravely helped each other, and that local religious leaders were now advocating peace.

“There is a certain degree of fear and anxiety among the people, but there is no hatred,” he said.

His remarks came a day after Burma’s Interfaith Friendship Organization issued a statement urging Buddhist monks and followers of different religions in the country to help ease the tension, maintain community harmony and keep themselves away from unnecessary conflict.

The statement, by Buddhist, Muslim, Christian and Hindu leaders, also called on the government to take action as necessary under the law as soon as possible.