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Displaced Myanmar Muslims need urgent aid

More than 300 forced to flee after fresh Buddhist riots

  • John Zaw, Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • August 28, 2013
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Relief workers assisting more than 300 Muslims displaced by violence over the weekend in Sagaing division say they face critical shortages of food, clothing and other basic needs after Buddhist rioters burned homes and shops over the weekend.

Maung Maung, a relief worker, said 320 people from Htan Gone village had taken shelter in Muslim schools after a mob of about 1,000 rioters burned homes, destroyed property and attacked rescue vehicles in Kanbalu township.

Official media reported that two people were injured in the violence, which started after a crowd demanded that police officers hand over a Muslim man suspected of assaulting a Buddhist woman.

The rioters fled early Sunday morning after security forces arrived and fired shots into the air.

Maung Maung said that despite food contributions from local officials and non-food items from a private donor in Naypyidaw, the need among the displaced remained acute.

Tin Myint, 60, fled the rioters with his wife and six children.

“My home was completely burned. Now I am concerned for the future of my family and the education of my children,” he told ucanews.com.

“We only dare to go outside in the day but not at night, even with the extra security,” added Tin Myint, who lost a previous home to rioters 10 years ago in similar sectarian violence.

Myint Naing, a parliamentarian from the National League for Democracy in Kanbalu, said police have arrested 11 suspected rioters and one Muslim man, though no information has yet been released about where the detainees are being held and no one has yet been allowed to visit the suspects.

Ko Oo, another relief worker in Kanbalu, said the displaced were forced to abandon all their belongings when the rioters attacked, and that clothing was a critical need at the moment.

Ko Oo added that the latest outbreak of violence was particularly frustrating, as “Buddhists and Muslims have been living side by side peacefully” in the village for a long time, and this latest violence could lead to further attacks.

Tensions in the area have cooled and security forces have not imposed a curfew.

Previous attacks in Rakhine state last year left 200 people dead and more than 140,000 displaced.

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