Monday, August 26, 2013

Buddhist mob in Burma torch Muslim homes and shops

The Irrawaddy,
RANGOON, Aug 26: Members of a 1,000-strong Buddhist mob torched dozens of homes and shops in northwestern Burma following rumors that a Muslim man tried to sexually assault a young woman, officials and witnesses said, as the country was once again gripped by sectarian violence.

A Facebook photo shows buildings burning in Htan Gone village, Sagaing Division, over the weekend.

The rioters, who sang the country’s national anthem as they rampaged, dispersed after security forces arrived early Sunday, shooting into the air. No injuries were reported.

The hours-long riot in Htan Gone village, located 16 kilometers (10 miles) south of the town of Kantbalu in the division of Sagaing, began late Saturday after a crowd surrounded a police station, demanding that the suspect in the attempted assault be handed over, a police officer told The Associated Press. The officer requested anonymity because he did not have the authority to speak to reporters.

State television reported that about 42 houses and 15 shops were burned and destroyed—most belonging to Muslims.

The predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million has been grappling with sectarian violence since the country’s military rulers handed over power to a nominally civilian government in 2011.

The unrest—which has killed more than 250 people and left 140,000 others displaced—began last year in the western state of Arakan, where nationalist Buddhists accuse the Rohingya Muslim community of illegally entering the country and encroaching on their land. The violence, on a smaller scale but still deadly, spread earlier this year to other parts of the country, fueling deep-seeded prejudices against the Islamic minority and threatening Burma’s fragile transition to democracy.

Almost all of the victims have been Muslims, often attacked as security forces stood by.

The Information Ministry said that at the height of the latest round of violence, up to 1,000 people were rampaging through Htan Gone village. The riots were triggered by a report that a Muslim man attempted to sexually assault a Buddhist woman on her way home from work, the ministry said.

The man was brought to the village police station and transferred to Shwe Bo Prison.

“About 100 angry men gathered outside the police station in Htan Gone village to demand that the culprit be handed over,” Tin Naing Htun, who lives in the village, told The Irrawaddy.
“Since they did not get what they wanted, the mob started destroying shops and torching houses in Muslim areas of the community.”

He said police officers who attempted to disperse the mob were attacked, prompting the officers to fire into the air.

Source harakahdaily

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