Rohingya crisis: Myanmar mob stones Muslim home

Villagers in a 400-strong crowd sang the national anthem and lobbed rocks at the home of a Muslim butcher before marching over to the local mosque, where they were dispersed by police.

world Updated: Sep 11, 2017 18:48 IST
Myanmar,Rohingya crisis,Bangladesh
Rohingya refugees sit near a jetty after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, on September 10, 2017. (Reuters)

Police fired rubber bullets to break up a mob that stoned the home of a Muslim butcher in central Myanmar, authorities said on Monday, as religious tensions rise amid a surge of violence in the west.

The mob attack on Sunday night in Magway region of the mainly Buddhist nation was fuelled by anger over the deepening crisis in the western state of Rakhine, according to a government press release.

Rakhine has been gripped by violence since militants from the Rohingya Muslim minority attacked security forces in late August, triggering brutal army reprisals that have left hundreds dead and pushed around 300,000 Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh.

The exodus accounts for nearly a third of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, creating a humanitarian emergency as a flood of famished and wounded refugees pour into Bangladesh’s already overcrowded camps.

The fighting has also pushed some 27,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus to flee their homes in northern Rakhine.

The conflict, marked by competing accusations from different ethnic groups, has intensified long-running mistrust between Myanmar’s Buddhists and its maligned Muslim minority.

Those tensions bubbled over in Taung Twin Gyi township on Sunday night when dozens of villagers in a 400-strong crowd sang the national anthem and lobbed rocks at the home of a Muslim butcher before marching over to the local mosque, where police dispersed the mob.

Police have arrested five people, including 30-year-old Hnin Ko Ko Lin, who said the group acted because “they could not accept the things that happened in Rakhine”, according to a statement posted by the government’s information committee.

Min Thein, a lower house MP for the township, confirmed to AFP that the butcher was Muslim.

“Now we are urging all the people to stay calm and we have already told the Muslim residents to stay in their homes,” he added.

Tensions between Buddhists and Muslims have simmered in Myanmar since 2012, when sectarian violence erupted in Rakhine, leaving hundreds dead and pushing more than 100,000 Rohingya into decrepit camps.

The country’s new civilian government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is desperate to avoid a repeat of anti-Muslim riots that swept through central Myanmar in 2013, leaving scores dead.

Since then Buddhist hardliners have led sporadic attacks on mosques and other Islamic sites across the country.

But western Rakhine, which is home to the Rohingya, has remained the epicentre of religious unrest.

Myanmar has denied the Rohingya citizenship, claiming they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and severely restricted their access to jobs, healthcare and other basic services.

Analysts say years of state-backed repression contributed to the emergence last year of the Rohingya militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, whose attacks have triggered the worst violence to engulf the region in years.

First Published: Sep 11, 2017 16:22 IST