Sectarian violence flares in Myanmar; mosque, orphanage burned
Zee Media Bureau
Yangon: Clashes between Muslims and Buddhists were reported in Lashio, the capital of Myanmar's northeastern Shan state, on Tuesday night.
According to reports, a mob burnt some shops after unverified rumours claimed that a Muslim man had set ablaze a Buddhist woman.
Unconfirmed reports on Muslim news websites said a large mosque and a Muslim orphanage had been burned down.
The spread of such unrest to a new region of the country will reinforce doubts that the government of reformist President Thein Sein has the will or capacity to contain the deadly religious violence, which began last year in western Myanmar.
A politician in Lashio in Shan state, Sai Myint Maung, said authorities banned gatherings of more than five people after about 150 massed outside a police station demanding that the alleged culprit be handed over. The mob also burned some stores, he said.
According to the rumours, the man doused the woman with gasoline and set her alight. Police could not be reached for comment, and it was not possible to confirm whether the rumours were true.
Another resident who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals confirmed by phone that some shops were burned near the police station and the hospital where the victim was said to have been taken. A Lashio resident, Than Htay, said he could see smoke and had heard about the ban on gatherings. He said calm had been restored.
However, the website of the Muslim-oriented M-media Group said Lashio’s biggest mosque had been torched by a mob while firefighters stood by, and a Muslim school and orphanage was also burned down. It did not say if there were any casualties. Its report acknowledged the burning of the woman but said the perpetrator was not a Muslim.
While the website’s account could not immediately be confirmed, it has provided more details earlier than other Myanmar media in reports earlier this year of violence against Muslims elsewhere in the country. Several photos circulating on Facebook also showed what was purported to be the mosque in flames.
Muslims account for about four percent of the nation’s roughly 60 million people. It is politically risky to speak out on their behalf because anti-Muslim sentiment is closely tied to nationalism and the dominant Buddhist religion.
(With Agency inputs)