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Muslims near Yangon need aid as riots spread again

Trouble in Mandalay and Kachin state: police on alert

  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • May 3, 2013
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More than 500 Muslims left homeless this week following religious riots north of Yangon are now in dire need of food and shelter, as further anti-Muslim attacks spread in the north of the country late on Thursday.

Attacks in Okkan Township, 112 kms north of Yangon, destroyed 77 homes on Tuesday. Local authorities provided emergency aid, but more is needed, said Khin Maung of interfaith group Peace Creation Network.

“What those displaced desperately need is food, clothes and shelter,” he said. “The government provided rice and tarpaulins right after the violence but there is no food security.”

Muslim families who went into hiding have since returned to their burned down homes and set up makeshift tents, said Khin Maung.

Tun Win, one of those displaced, said he is still too afraid to go to his shop in Okkan market for fear of further attacks and was therefore unable to resume working.

“The soldiers and the police are present now across the town so we don’t fear another round of immediate attacks. But how will we continue to live here once they leave?” he said.

Trouble in Okkan started on Tuesday when a Muslim woman knocked the alms bowl of a novice monk in the market. This sparked riots targeting Muslims which police stopped later the same day.

Authorities reportedly charged 21 people over the violence, including Win Win Sein, the Muslim woman involved in the original dispute. One person was killed and nine injured.

The jade-mining town of Hpakant in restive Kachin state saw sectarian violence for the first time on Thursday as anti-Muslim attacks led to the arrest of two people, government spokesman Ye Htut said on his Facebook page.

In Mandalay on Thursday night, people on motorbikes reportedly began to spread rumors that monks were marching to attack Muslims, prompting the arrest of three people as police went on alert in Myanmar’s second city.

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