2nd Day of Anti-Muslim Violence Strikes NE Myanmar

Todd Pitman, Yahoo! News, May 29, 2013

Hundreds of Buddhist men on motorcycles waved iron rods and bamboo poles and threw rocks in a northeastern Myanmar town on Wednesday, a day after a mosque and a Muslim orphanage were torched in a new wave of violence targeting the religious minority. Residents said a movie theater was burned as the mob sped around the town.

Many Buddhists and Muslims stayed locked inside their homes and shops were shuttered after Tuesday’s violence in Lashio town, near the border with China, the latest region to fall prey to the country’s spreading sectarian violence. The rioting in Lashio was sparked by reports that a Muslim man had set fire to a Buddhist woman.

Deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims has occurred since last year in other parts of Myanmar, first in a western region and then in central towns. The new flare-up will reinforce doubts that President Thein Sein’s government can or will act to contain the violence and crack down on racial and religious intolerance.

Wednesday morning was quiet, but by afternoon several hundred young men, screaming and waving sticks, roamed the downtown area on motorcycles near City Hall. A Buddhist monk was seated on the back of one of the motorcycles, waving a stick.

On another street, the crowd threw rocks at buildings. Many people were too afraid to step outside. Smoke could be seen over at least one area of town, and local politician Sai Myint Maung said a movie theater had been burned and that there were rumors that more troublemakers were gathered on the outskirts of the town.

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There were no reported fatalities after Tuesday night’s violence in the remote mountain town.

Order was initially restored after authorities banned gatherings of more than five people. A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed and many shops and streets were empty, Sai Myint Maung said.

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A 48-year-old man accused of setting fire to a 24-year-old Buddhist woman was arrested, state television reported. It said the man, identified as an Indian Muslim, threw gasoline on the woman.

The man was charged with causing grievous injuries and arson, as well as drug possession due to stimulants found in his pocket, the TV report said. The woman was being treated for burns to her chest, back and hands.

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Minority Muslims have been the main victims of the deadly violence, but so far there have been no criminal trials against members of the country’s Buddhist majority.

After Tuesday’s alleged immolation, an irate crowd of more than 100 people, including Buddhist monks, gathered outside a police station demanding that the alleged attacker be handed over, state TV reported.

The crowd then rampaged through the town, setting fire to Lashio’s largest mosque and several shops, the television report said.

The mob also set fire to a Muslim school and orphanage that was so badly charred that only two walls remained, said Min Thein, a resident contacted by telephone. {snip}

Myanmar’s sectarian violence first flared in western Rakhine state last year, when hundreds of people died in clashes between Buddhists and Muslims that drove about 140,000 others, mostly Muslims, from their homes. Most are still living in refugee camps.

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