Fresh Attacks on Muslims in Myanmar by Hardline Buddhists
BANGKOK — Six Muslims has died and dozens of homes destroyed, amid a resurgence of religious violence in western Myanmar, a senior police officer said Wednesday.
The deaths and the burning of houses in and around the city of Thandwe occurred Tuesday, just hours before President Thein Sein arrived in the area on Wednesday as part of a scheduled visit to cool religious tensions and criticize “extremism.”
“There are casualties and damage on both sides,” Mr. Thein Sein said on state television.
Buddhist mobs carrying swords rampaging through Muslim neighbourhoods have occurred in alarming regularity. A police officer, Colonel Kyaw Tint, said that all the people found dead were from the Muslim community.
Anti-Muslim violence has spread around the country following Buddhist nationalist groups calling for a boycott of Muslim shops, and radical Buddhist monks giving anti-Muslim sermons in various events.
The International Crisis Group, a research organization, released a report this week saying that more clashes between Buddhists and Muslims were likely because of “the depth of anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, and the inadequate response of the security forces.”
Colonel Kyaw Tint said tensions remained high between Buddhists and Muslims around Thandwe; the police have imposed a curfew, he said.
Like U Nyi Lay, a Muslim and grocery store owner in Thandwe, Muslim families are living in fear as Buddhist mobs continue to attack their neighbourhoods and set fire to houses. Police officers have told villagers to stay inside their houses.
The tensions between Muslims and Buddhists run deep in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh. Over 100,000 were forced from their homes and more than 150 people killed last year. The Rohingyas, an ethnic group that is not officially recognized in Myanmar and whose members have been denied citizenship, were the majority of the victims and those displaced.
But unlike last year’s violence, which largely occurred in areas closer to the Bangladesh border, the attacks this week were on well-established Muslim neighborhoods farther south that have existed side by side with Buddhists for generations.
“This kind of violence has never happened in Thandwe before,” said Colonel Kyaw Tint.