Armed Burmese Monks Threaten Journalists in Meikhtila

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Monks and laymen drive down the street amid riots in Meikhtila on March 22, 2013.
Monks and laymen drive down the street amid riots in Meikhtila on March 22, 2013.

A group of young armed Buddhist monks on Thursday held and threatened several journalists who witnessed them damaging a mosque and a house in Burma's riot-torn Meikhtila city, according to eyewitnesses.

The monks destroyed the memory cards seized from digital cameras of the journalists before letting them go.

The monks spotted the journalists, including a reporter from Radio Free Asia, taking photographs from a car and surrounded the vehicle, demanding that they give up their memory cards.

A monk held a knife to the throat of one reporter and pulled the journalists out of the car.

Some of the journalists said they were just doing their job and knelt before the monks in obeisance while others gave up their SD [secure digital] cards. As they let them go, the journalists ran into a monastery where they were given refuge for several hours before police arrived.

"We saw a group of monks destroying a mosque and a house near Thiri Street as we were in a car taking some pictures in town," Kyaw Zaw Win, the RFA reporter in the media group, said.

"The monks saw us. Suddenly, they surrounded our car and forced us out. They put a knife to a reporter’s throat," he said.

"We begged for our lives saying we didn't do anything wrong. They said that they would destroy our cameras. We refused to give them our cameras. Two reporters in our group gave their memory cards."

The monks smashed the memory cards into pieces.

The Associated Press said in a report that one monk, whose faced was covered, shoved a foot-long dagger at the neck of its photographer and demanded his camera. The photographer defused the situation by handing over his camera's memory card.

It said the group of nine journalists took refuge in a monastery and stayed there until a police unit was able to escort them to safety.

Communal violence

The communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Meikhtila is a top news story in the local and international media as well in social media. It is the worst violence since a wave of Buddhist-Muslim clashes in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced.

Burmese President Thein Sein on Friday declared a state of emergency in Meikhtila after police failed to contain three days of violence that have left more than 20 dead and dozens injured.

In the city Friday, angry mobs armed with knives and sticks roamed the streets, while houses and mosques burned and charred bodies lay in the streets. Thein Sein issued an order the same day, asking the military to rein in the violence.

A lawmaker and a resident told RFA that up to 26 people may have died in the riots.

Reported by Kyaw Zaw Win for RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Win Naing and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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Anonymous Reader

The so called buddhist monks are invoking the destruction of the Bammiyyan statues by Taliban forces in Afghanistan to go on rampage, aggress the birman muslim community and destroy their properties. In all likelihood, these birman muslims may not have condoned what happened in Afghanistan but remain a scapegoat for a hidden agenda in Myanmar. Where is the Dalai Lama (and true buddhists!) to rigorously condemn what is going on there which is in complete contradiction with buddhist precepts and faith! The government should further step up its protection to this minority before its too late. Remember the devil is the symbol of evil and evil is only in our hearts (dixit VH)!

Mar 31, 2013 10:37 AM


from Yangon

Wearing a saffron robe does not make a monk. The Pongyi's (Greater Glory) place is in the monastery, not in worldly life. Their voices must calm the community. All devout Buddhists and Muslims, Christians, Confucians, and Animists must condemn this violence, which is now tragically spreading across the land. This is not democracy. It's madness.

Mar 25, 2013 08:32 AM


from Bangkok

I won't never listen to RFA Burmese Services.They are betraying their own country and posting fake news to the world. ...

[This comment has been edited by RFA Editorial staff per our Terms of Use]

Mar 24, 2013 02:50 PM

Omar Shereef

from Herndon, Virginia

Fake news! You are just another radical Burmese Buddhist. Muslims in Burma make up to 4% of the population. Many of you have no religious tolerance. Indian mixed bi-racial people and Muslims have no basic human rights in Burma. It is openly promoted by the government. " The earth does not swallow a certain human race, one human race will swallow another". It is a sign board placed all over Burma encouraging the Burmese not to mix with Indian descent Muslims. You can no longer hide in digital age after decades of mistreatment.

Apr 25, 2013 08:20 AM

Ven Jayadisa

from Mandalay

This is not correct news. Monks save and help on Mosilm. We don't believe RFA (Burmese). They broadcast gossip in almost their news. They broadcast as they want. Most of the RFA (Burmese) staffs have pessimism on Burmese Buddhist monks. They should have realism.

Mar 23, 2013 08:23 AM

Maung Zaw

it is absolutely "NOT" communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma. Buddhist extremists led by current military government of Burma and skin-heads monks are killing Muslims freely in their own homelands. UN is just baseless and doing nothing, rubbish.

Mar 23, 2013 07:33 AM

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