One Dead, 10 Injured in Oakkan Clashes

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A Muslim woman in Oakkan stands outside her shop damaged in clashes, May 1, 2013.
A Muslim woman in Oakkan stands outside her shop damaged in clashes, May 1, 2013.

Hundreds of police and troops moved to restore order in central Burma on Wednesday following clashes between Buddhist and Muslims that left one dead and ten injured.

Police said 18 people have been arrested in the violence, which erupted Tuesday afternoon in Oakkan, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the former capital Rangoon.

Two mosques were destroyed in the clashes and some 100 houses were burned overnight in Oakkan’s predominantly Muslim Yadanarkone, Panipin, Chautthe, and Thegone villages.

One Muslim man, Zaw Naing, died after being taken to the hospital in Rangoon, where 10 other people are being treated for injuries sustained in the violence, an Oakkan police officer told RFA’s Burmese Service.

The 18 held over the violence were “all from Oakkan” and had been arrested separately “in small groups,” he said, adding that the situation in the area had calmed down.

“The situation today is fine,” he said Wednesday, after some 300 security forces led by Rangoon Division Police Chief Win Naing arrived in Oakkan to contain the riots.

But Oakkan residents said they remained gripped by fear.

“We didn't come out from the house and kept the door closed the whole day because we are afraid,” one local woman said.

burma-oakkan-map-400.jpgState media reported that the clashes erupted at Oakkan’s Myoma market after a young Muslim woman accidentally turned over the alms bowl of a novice Buddhist monk.

The market has been closed and Section 188 of the Burmese Penal Code, which carries severe punishment for those "endangering public safety," has been invoked in Oakkan and the surrounding villages.

The violence in Oakkan is the latest unrest to hit central Burma following a number of attacks by Buddhist mobs on Muslim communities in March.

At least 43 people were reported dead and thousands, mostly Muslims, driven from their homes and businesses as the March violence spread from Meikhtila to other areas north of Rangoon.

Shwe Nya Wa, a well-known Buddhist monk from Rangoon who traveled to Oakkan to help restore calm in the wake of the clashes, urged local people not to be incited to violence.

“If our country has continuous violence like this, it harms all of us,” he told RFA.

“Can our country’s future keep moving forward without weapons like this? We want peace for our country’s future,” he said.

This year’s violence has been linked to radical monks and has triggered international concern. Rights groups have accused the security forces of standing by while some of the attacks, which appeared to be well organized, took place.

The religious unrest has threatened to derail Burma’s plans to rebrand itself as a democracy under reformist President Thein Sein, whose nominally civilian government took power in 2011 following decades of military misrule.

Last year, clashes between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist Rakhines broke out twice in Burma's Rakhine state, leaving at least 180 dead and tens of thousands homeless, mostly Rohingyas.

Thein Sein, who was criticized for waiting days to speak out during the Meikhtila violence, is set to address the nation on Thursday morning, state media reported late Wednesday.

Reported by RFA’s Burmese Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.





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