Order restored after fresh Myanmar religious unrest

HTAN KONE, Myanmar Sun Aug 25, 2013 11:09am EDT

1 of 7. A boy salvages belongings amid burnt debris at Htan Kone village in Myanmar's northern Sagaing region August 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

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HTAN KONE, Myanmar (Reuters) - Authorities restored order in Myanmar's northern Sagaing region on Sunday after a Buddhist mob set fire to nearly two dozen Muslim-owned buildings and attacked rescue workers in the latest widening of sectarian violence in the former military-run state.

About 1,000 Buddhists, some carrying sticks and swords, attacked Muslim villagers in remote Htan Kone late on Saturday, destroying at least 20 homes and shops, according to witnesses and a government statement.

Police and soldiers arrived later and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, they said.

The violence in the rugged region about 665 km (410 miles) from the commercial capital, Yangon, shows how far anti-Muslim anger has spread in the Buddhist-dominated country following spasms of unrest in northeastern Lashio in May, central Meikhtila in March and western Rakhine State last year.

The Ministry of Information said the unrest followed the attempted rape of a Buddhist woman by a Muslim man on Saturday. After the man was detained, about 150 villagers and three Buddhist monks gathered at the police station, demanding he be handed over to them, it said.

When the police refused, the mob rioted, destroying Muslim homes, throwing rocks at police and attacking firemen before authorities restored order by 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, the ministry said.

Police sergeant Win Nyi told Reuters 12 people from the mob had been arrested. A Reuters photographer in Htan Kone said the village was tense on Sunday evening but the violence had subsided.

Witnesses said some Muslims fled to neighboring villages or sheltered in a Muslim school.

Saya Soe, 32, a Muslim villager, said houses were already burning by the time police and soldiers arrived. "The mobs stopped and went away only after midnight when the security forces fired four or five shots into the sky."

Another Muslim resident, Azit Paing, said the cause of the unrest appears to have been an argument between a young Muslim man and a Buddhist woman, but he denied the man attempted to rape the woman.

Clashes between Buddhists and Muslims have threatened to undermine political and economic reforms the government initiated two years ago after half a century of military rule.

More than 200 people have been killed since June last year and 140,000 displaced. The vast majority of victims have been Muslim.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, a U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, said a 200-strong mob attacked his car during an August 22 visit to the central Myanmar town of Meikhtila, where a wave of anti-Muslim riots in March killed at least 43 people, destroyed hundreds of homes and displaced thousands.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut denied Ojea Quintana had been attacked and said the U.N. envoy mistook the crowd's intentions.

(Reporting by Min Zayer Oo in Yangon and Soe Zeya Tun in Htan Kone. Writing by Jared Ferrie. Editing by Jason Szep and Robert Birsel)

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Comments (5)
chase911411 wrote:
Why? Buddhism! Please stop the hatred. Our teacher Buddha would never teach us to against other religions in the violent way. We must all live in the way of love, happiness and compassion.

Aug 25, 2013 7:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
BanglaFirst wrote:
These law breakers should be arrested & put on trial and the rest of the world should stop rolling the red carpet to Myanmar when its politicians practice racist laws and it does not protect its citizens like in South Africa, Nazi Germany etc.

Aug 25, 2013 1:39pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Free_Pacific wrote:
BanglaFirst Wrote: ” West is not reliable partner because of Jewish infiltration…”

BanglaFirst Wrote: “…because these liberals, atheists, commies and other no bodies…”

Your despise of other religions is well known. Your defence of political islam to mute and sideline all non-islamic human beings is also well known. As is your defence of the Islamist backers of genocide against atheists, Hindu’s and any muslim who does not agree with your islamist agenda in Bangaldesh.

Considering your stance (And proximity to Burma), one wonders if it is any surprise that there is now a backlash growing in some countries against islamism. And most notable, your neighbours.

Aug 26, 2013 3:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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