Sectarian violence spreads as mobs target Muslim communities in Pegu
Religious clashes continued to spread through Burma late on Monday night, as Muslim homes and businesses in two townships of Pegu division were ransacked by Buddhist mobs numbering in their hundreds.
According to a resident in Gyobingauk township who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the mob began targeting Muslim-owned properties around 11pm on Monday evening after rumours of an attack began to spread.
Seven houses, several shops, cars and a mosque were reportedly destroyed while a man who was sleeping in the mosque was injured and later hospitalised.
The mob allegedly began with just a few men, but their ranks swelled to the hundreds. The town’s police force, influential civic figures and monks eventually persuaded the group to disperse before any structures were razed or people killed.
Earlier on Monday evening in another Pegu town, Oak Pho, a mob of around 200 people destroyed Muslim homes and a mosque before being restrained by riot police who fired rubber bullets into the crowd, injuring nine people.
The latest eruption of violence comes after sectarian riots kicked off in central Burma’s Meikhtila township last week – leaving at least 40 people dead and uprooting more than 12,000 people.
Last Friday, President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in the township and called on the Burmese military to restore order in the riot-hit area.
While the military seems to have been successful in bringing peace to the area, mobs have continued to target Muslim businesses, homes and mosques across the country’s heartland.
According to a report in Xinhua, as of Monday authorities in Rangoon passed orders to restrict business hours in four townships in response to rumours that sectarian violence was set to kick off in the areas. This includes Thaketa township, where an angry Buddhist mob recently attacked a local Muslim community after rumours spread that a school was being turned into a mosque.
On Monday, the US Embassy published a release warning US citizens to avoid the Mingalar Market/Yuzana Plaza area east of Kandawgyi Lake in Rangoon after “a fight broke out in that area… resulting in a heavy police presence. Many shops have closed.”
The large-scale rioting that kicked off in central Burma has been the largest explosion of communal violence since two separate bouts of unrest rocked Arakan state last year and divided communities and displaced more than 125,000 people.
During a state broadcast last night, the government called for calm and warned that further violence could undo the country’s fragile democratic reforms, which were introduced by President Thein Sein in March 2011.