Mosque Destroyed in Myanmar Village as Tensions Flare Between Muslims And Buddhists

2016-06-24
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A Muslim man walks through the destroyed mosque in Thuye Thamain village in south-central Myanmar's Bago region, June 24, 2016.
A Muslim man walks through the destroyed mosque in Thuye Thamain village in south-central Myanmar's Bago region, June 24, 2016.
AFP

A disagreement between Muslims and Buddhists in a village in south-central Myanmar’s Bago region boiled over on Thursday when an angry mob destroyed parts of a mosque and a house belonging to a Muslim family, the region’s chief minister said.

The mob destroyed the structures in Thuye Thamain village following a heated dispute between a Muslim man and a Buddhist, said Bago region chief minister Win Thein.

The dispute was over the building of a Muslim school, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

The Muslim man berated the Buddhist during their altercation, drawing about 200 Buddhist residents from neighboring villages, who learned about the dispute from Facebook posts and destroyed the man’s house, Win Thein said.

“The problem was getting bigger and turned into a fight between Muslims and Buddhists,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Besides ransacking the Muslim’s home, which also served as a storefront for construction equipment and hardware, the Buddhist mob targeted other Muslim households in the village along with a mosque and a warehouse, AFP reported.

A Muslim man suffered head injuries during the attack, according to a statement issued by London-based Amnesty international.

About 70 Muslims sought shelter overnight in the local police station, the AFP report said.

“We have deployed security police for 24 hours around the area,” Win Thein said. “Police are also investigating the problem to determine whether it was a normal dispute or not.”

About 250 Muslims live in Thuye Thamain, which is home to 1,500 majority Buddhist households, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.

The destruction of the mosque and the house prompted Amnesty International to call on authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the incident.

“The authorities must take swift action to show that it is treating such incidents against Muslims and other religious minorities seriously," said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “This incident must be immediately and independently investigated and those suspected of involvement must be brought to justice and victims receive effective remedies, including reparations.”

Anti-Muslim violence

The incident is the latest case of anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which saw  communal violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2012 leave more than 200 dead and tens of thousands homeless.

About 120,000 Rohingya, who bore the brunt of the violence, remain in displaced persons camps and face discrimination.

The country’s Buddhist majority considers them “Bengalis”—illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh—and has denied them access to social services and education, restricted their movements, and prevented them from voting.

The attack coincides with a 12-day mission to the country by Yanghee Lee, the United Nations envoy for human rights in Myanmar, who visited Rohingya in the camps to gather information for a report she will present to the U.N. in September.

The U.N. on Monday issued a report on the situation of minorities in Myanmar, warning that continued human rights violations against the Rohingya could amount to crimes against humanity.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, has come under fire from rights groups who accuse her administration of failing to condemn the discrimination against the Rohingya.

The Myanmar government ordered state media and officials to refer to the Rohingya as the “Muslim community in Rakhine state” during Lee’s visit.

Reported by Zarni Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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