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Anti-Islamic violence spreads

More mosques and homes torched in anti-Muslim attacks

Daniel Wynn, Yangon

Daniel Wynn, Yangon

Published: March 25, 2013 08:57 AM GMT

Updated: March 25, 2013 08:05 PM GMT

Anti-Islamic violence spreads

Sectarian violence spread in central Myanmar over the weekend, with mobs destroying several mosques and dozens of houses after last week's conflict in the town of Meikhtila. 

At least 32 people were killed and about 9,000 people, mostly Muslims, were made homeless in Meikhtila after attacks began there on Wednesday. The violence flared after a dispute between a Muslim shopkeeper and a Buddhist customer. A state of emergency was declared and order has since been restored. 

On Sunday, a mosque and some Muslim houses were torched in a village near the capital city of Naypyidaw, 250 kms south of Mandalay, said Kyaw Than, a local police officer.

State-run television also reported that at least one mosque and 48 Muslim-resident houses were burned down in Yamethin Township, Mandalay, on Saturday night with nearly 30 suspects detained. A further state media report said that a mosque and several buildings were set ablaze in a village near Naypyidaw on Sunday.

Similar attacks reportedly occurred almost simultaneously in Bago, near Yangon.

“We are all living in constant fear and are praying for police protection,” said Aung Than, a Muslim shop owner in Bago.

Vijay Nambir, the UN Special Envoy to Myanmar, visited Meikhtila at the weekend and met with victims of the violence who are now in makeshift camps in the town’s football stadiums and Buddhist monasteries.

Nambir called on the government to take action against those involved in the riots and to promote a sense of tolerance.

Local politicians have accused security forces of not doing enough to prevent bloodshed. Min Ko Naing, a leader of the influential 88 Generation Students Group, who was at the scene in Meikhtila on Thursday, said security forces stood by while killings occurred.

The government released a statement yesterday after a meeting between President Thein Sein, Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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The statement called for rule of law, efforts to prevent further clashes, the victims to be able to return to their homes, coordination with UN and religious organizations in helping the victims, and more community dialogue.

It is feared violence may spread to Yangon and other major cities.

“Around 9:30 last night, a group of people in two cars shouted abuse at local Muslim residents and then drove away. We reported it to the police and are worried about possible violence,” said Mya Thaung, a Muslim resident in Yangon.  

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