Curfew fails to curb attacks in Thandwe

Curfew fails to curb attacks in Thandwe By Manny Maung  , 03 July 2013

A heightened security presence and a state-imposed Section 144 curfew has failed to prevent more arson attacks in the town of Thandwe in Rakhine state.

A major bus station in Ann Daw Ward is the latest target by arsonists after a spate of attacks in the area since June 30, following the alleged rape of a young Buddhist woman.

Residents near the bus station alerted police that they could see flames about 9.30pm on July 2.

U Nyi Nyi She, a worker at the bus station and also a resident of Ann Daw Ward, told the Myanmar Times by telephone that he had seen at least two buses and the main building had been torched, but the fires didn’t spread further as security arrived in time to extinguish the flames.

“I saw tyres had been slashed on the buses and windows smashed in,” he said.

“The main building was completely destroyed but the fires didn’t take hold.”

He said the perpetrators had fled the scene by the time police arrived.

There are no reports of deaths or injuries from this latest bout of violence.

The attack on the bus station follows attacks on Muslim households on June 30 in the same township, which saw as many as 14 houses burnt and three homes completely torched.

The riots are said to have been sparked by allegations that a young Buddhist girl was raped as she was trying to return home on the night of June 29.

The alleged rapist is now said to be in police custody, and his religious or ethnic background remains unclear.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Deputy Information Minister U Ye Htut announced the attacker was not Buddhist.

Eyewitnesses report that on June 30, armed gangs carrying knives, batons and slingshots circled Ward 5 on foot and motorbike. They then kicked in doors and smashed windows of homes, before setting the buildings alight.

Win Han Thein, a local resident who has friends living in the area, said not all the homes affected belonged to Muslims.

“At least five of the homes that caught fire [from the other houses] belonged to Rakhine Buddhist households,” he said.

He then provided The Myanmar Times with a comprehensive list of those whose homes had been affected.

“Ko Myo Thin’s house was burnt down, as was Ko Than Lwin’s house,” he recalled. “Daw Win Kyi, who runs a pharmacy also had her house burnt down completely.”

Win Han Thein said he wanted authorities to investigate the arson attacks thoroughly, given as many of the arsonist’s faces were recognised on the night they attacked peoples’ homes.

“They were people that my friends and people living in the neighbourhood recognised,” he said.

“They were throwing rocks and carrying knives to terrify people. Many of us saw who they were.”

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