COLOMBO, June 27 Buddhist activists accused of
involvement in violence against Sri Lanka's minority Muslims
said on Friday that accounts of their group's members on social
media site Facebook had been blocked.
Clashes erupted on June 15 in Aluthgama and Beruwela, two
towns with large Muslim populations on the island's southern
coast, during a protest march led by the hardline group Bodu
Bala Sena (BBS), or "Buddhist Power Force".
Many residents of the towns, thronged by tourists, said BBS
activists had made inflammatory statements against Muslims at a
rally before the violence. Much of the coast is dominated by Sri
Lanka's majority Buddhist Sinhalese community.
The group denies any connection with the incidents, in which
three people died and 75 were injured.
"My account is blocked," BBS spokesman Dilantha Vithanage
told Reuters by telephone. "I can't access my account. I last
visited my account on June 25 and the accounts of others have
also been blocked."
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, a Buddhist monk and the BBS
secretary general, who addressed the rally, also said his
account had been blocked.
"I have created another account," he said.
A Facebook spokesman in London declined to comment on any
action taken by the company in Sri Lanka and referred Reuters to
its terms of service.
The social media site's terms and conditions warn users not
to "credibly threaten others or organise acts of real-world
violence" and says it can remove content when it perceives "a
genuine risk of physical harm or a direct threat to public
Facebook also says organisations "with a record of terrorist
of violent criminal activity are not allowed to maintain a
Violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka has risen since 2012,
mirroring events in Myanmar, which has seen a surge of attacks
by members of the majority Buddhist community on Muslims.
Despite requests by many Muslim political leaders in
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's coalition government to crack down
on the BBS, the authorities have taken no steps.
Many independent analysts say well-coordinated violence
against Muslims and Christians appears to have tacit state
backing as those involved in previous attacks have yet to be
punished. The government denies any collusion.
The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam attacked
Muslim villages in the northeast during the civil war from 1983
to 2009. More than 140 people were killed in a massacre of
Muslims in 1990 blamed on the Tigers, which the group denied.
(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Eric Auchard in London; Writing
by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Ron Popeski)