Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Burmese Muslims vanish as Buddhist attacks spread

DEADLY RUMORS:An angry mob on Friday drove the last Muslim of Sit Kwin out of town, after a gang of bikers arrived and started whipping up anti-Muslim fervor

Reuters, SIT KWIN, Myanmar

“There is no problem with the way they live, but they are the minority and we are the majority. And when the minority insults our religion, we get concerned,” he told reporters. “We will come out again if we get a chance.”

Letpadan villagers fear the tension will explode.

“I’m sure they will come back and destroy the mosque,” says Aung San Kyaw, 35, a Muslim. “We’ve never experienced anything like this.”

Across the street, Hla Tan, a 67-year-old Buddhist, shares the fear.

“We have lived peacefully for years. Nothing can happen between us unless outsiders come. But if they come, I know we can’t stop them,” he said.

North of Sit Kwin, the farming town of Minhla endured about three hours of violence on both Wednesday and Thursday.

About 300 people, many from the nearby village of Ye Kyaw, gathered on Wednesday afternoon. The crowd swelled to about 800 as townsfolk joined, a Minhla policeman said. They then destroyed three mosques and 17 shops and houses, he said. No Buddhist monks were involved, witnesses said.

The mob carried sticks, metal pipes and hammers, said Hla Soe, 60, a Buddhist who runs an electrical repair shop in Minhla.

“No one could stop them,” he said.

About 200 soldiers and police eventually intervened to restore a fragile peace.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said on Thursday he had received reports of “state involvement” in the recent violence at Meiktila.

Soldiers and police sometimes stood by “while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes, including by well-organized ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs,” said the rapporteur, Tomas Ojea Quintana. “This may indicate direct involvement by some sections of the state or implicit collusion and support for such actions.”

Ye Htut, a presidential spokesman and deputy minister of information, called those accusations “groundless.”

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