Muslims under Fire: Ashes and Fear in Myanmar town

From Associated Press, in The Weekend Australian, 23/24 March 2013


CHARRED bodies lay unclaimed on the streets after riots in a town in central Myanmar yesterday, as global pressure mounted for an end to the Buddhist-Muslim unrest.  Parts of Meiktila, about 550km north of the main city of Yangon, have been reduced to ashes as the government struggles to bring the situation under control. Estimates of the casualties varied yesterday, but local MP Win Htein said about 25 people had been killed. Several bodies were seen on the streets, including the incinerated remains of one victim lying next to a burnt bicycle on a roadside late on Thursday. Angry mobs of men took to the streets for a third day after an overnight curfew ended. Flames raged from torched mosques and houses, sending acrid smoke into the sky. Mr Win Htein said angry Buddhist residents and monks were preventing authorities from putting out fires after Muslim homes were set ablaze.“The situation is getting worse,” a resident said. “People are destroying buildings here and there. Many people have been killed. We are scared and trying to stay safe at home.” At least five mosques were torched during the violence that started on Wednesday, reportedly triggered by an argument between a Muslim gold shop owner and his Buddhist customers. A Buddhist monk was among the first killed, inflaming tensions that led a mob to rampage through a Muslim neighbourhood.

Meiktila has a population of about 100,000 people, about a third of them Muslims, Mr Win Htein said. He said before this week’s violence, the community had 17 mosques. Mandalay state authorities have dispatched about 1200 police officers to the town.

These clashes involved ethnic Myanmarese Muslims — unlike violence last year in Rakhine state between Buddhists and ethnic Rohingyas, who are not counted in the national census and are considered foreigners by many. That violence left more than 200 people dead and 100,000 homeless. Myanmar’s Muslims – largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent – make up an estimated 4 per cent of the roughly 60 million population, although the country has not conducted a census in three decades, and some scholars say the proportion could be as high as 10 per cent.

The country has undergone rapid reforms towards democracy and economic liberalism following decades of military dictatorship and isolation. But removing strict military rule has lifted the lid on longstanding sectarian and ethnic tensions in parts of the country, and many minority groups continue to feel sidelined. The tensions are worst in states where minorities make up a sizable part of the population – such as Meiktila.

The latest violence “indicates that the ethnic Buddhist majority population is feeling increasingly emboldened to carry out attacks on the Muslims,” said Arvind Ramakrishnan, Asia analyst at London-based risk consultancy Maplecroft. “The military will be forced to act decisively in order to prevent severe loss of life and property.” He said the developments were particularly worrying since central Myanmar was of “far greater economic and political significance” than Rakhine state. Meiktila lies just off the highways connecting Mandalay to Naypyidaw and Yangon, the political and commercial capitals


ALSO SEE B Raman: Buddhist-Muslim clashes in Meikhtila,”

1 Comment

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One response to “Muslims under Fire: Ashes and Fear in Myanmar town

  1. Andy Sergie

    Why don’t someone speak about Muslims attacking the Buddhist in Bangladesh; Buddhists pilgrims and monks being attacked in India? Muslims attacking Christians in Muslim countries and vice versa? What is the core of this problem? If all religious leaders of today stick to what the founders of each religion’s founders said none of this would happen. Prophet never said kill the infidels, Jesus never said that, Buddha never said and as a matter of fact no one said anything like that. The so protagonists after these saintly founders made up these stories not for our benefit, not for our salvation, not for our welfare not to show the hard road to heaven or whatever you may call it but for their own benefit. Now we like idiots follow them doing the most dastardly crimes against the humanity and there are people who pick-up these stories or news items write in a veiled way to agitate more people and create trouble. If people see a street fight then there would be many onlookers. But if some is pacifying someone then they would walk past with just a glance. The negative side of human nature!

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