Myanmar Town Locked Down After Violence; President Continues Trip

Myanmar Town Locked Down After Violence; President Continues Trip

President Thein Sein Initially Planned to Cancel Thandwe Visit. By SHIBANI MAHTANI & MYO MYO

YANGON—Myanmar authorities stepped up security Wednesday in Thandwe, a town in troubled Rakhine state, in a bid to restore calm after four days of communal mob violence killed five Muslims in the latest flare-up of violence there.

The violence comes as Myanmar President Thein Sein visits Rakhine state for the first time since bloody communal tension broke out more than a year ago. The president continued with his three-day visit to towns and camps in Rakhine, his spokesman said, despite initial plans to cancel his trip to Thandwe. Mr. Thein Sein hopes to calm tensions between majority Buddhists and Muslims that has killed more 150 people and displaced some 150,000 over the past year. The victims have overwhelmingly been Rohingya Muslims.

Soe Lwin, a senior Thandwe police officer, said more than 80 security personnel—including members of the military as well as additional policemen—were deployed Wednesday to keep order in the town and to identify and arrest perpetrators, reinforcing an increased police presence and curfews already put in place over recent months.

Thandwe, a coastal city close to the popular beach resort of Ngapali, is about 270 kilometers (170 miles) west of the country’s largest city, Yangon. Violence broke out Saturday after a Buddhist taxi driver complained to police that he had been verbally attacked by a Muslim small-business owner while trying to park in front of his shop, authorities said. Police took the man in for questioning but released him and an angry mob later attacked his home.

Several houses were burned Sunday, and a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. was imposed. On Tuesday, mobs armed with knives and sticks grew larger and began attacks in villages around the town, authorities said, and stabbed to death a 94-year-old Muslim woman. Four other Muslim men were also killed, according to police there.

Associated PressMyanmar police stand guard near barricades in Thandwe, Rakhine state.

“More than 1,000 residents surrounded the Muslim homes and destroyed them,” said Win Myaing, government spokesman for Rakhine state, estimating that more than 50 homes and a mosque were burned. The crowds dispersed after police fired gunshots in the air. In one village, 31 homes were burned, according to the village head. Muslims fled to surrounding fields to hide or took refuge in Buddhist monasteries.

Mr. Thein Sein is visiting the region for the first time since violence broke out more than a year ago, triggering what have become regular bouts of violence that have spread to other parts of the country, pitting the overwhelming Buddhist majority against minority Muslims, who account for about 4% of the nation’s 60 million people, in what is the biggest challenge to stability since decades of military dictatorship ended three years ago. His visit was planned before the recent violence.

The Muslim population in Rakhine comprises mostly ethnic Rohingyas and accounts for about a quarter of the state’s population. The government hasn’t indicated that it plans to change laws that regard them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh—even though many have been in the country for generations.

European Pressphoto AgencyA man scavenges through a burnt-out section of Tha Byu Gyaing village near Thandwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar, on Wednesday, after Buddhist mobs attacked Muslim neighborhoods in the state a day earlier.

The Muslims of Thandwe, which has a population of about 150,000, are mostly considered citizens of Myanmar, unlike the Rohingyas, who are concentrated in northern areas of the state.

The anti-Rohingya prejudice is “unique and somewhat distinct from anti-Muslim sentiment” in the rest of Myanmar and makes the situation there more tense, said Arvind Ramakrishnan, head for Asia at United Kingdom-based risk consultancy Maplecroft. “There is no compromise in the government’s strategy of treating the Rohingya as Bengali who are not of Burmese origin,” he said. “Discrimination against them will continue to be institutionalized.”

Mr. Thein Sein arrived Tuesday in Rakhine’s state capital, Sittwe, and on Wednesday afternoon traveled to Thandwe, meeting with both Muslim and Buddhist leaders in the tense area. Ye Htut, the president’s spokesman, said that he has spoken to residents about the “need to accept the diversity in the state and understand that cooperation between the two communities is needed.” He plans to visit camps of people displaced by the violence, mostly Muslim Rohingyas. The United Nations says that many are wholly dependent on humanitarian aid for their survival.

Myanmar’s government has repeatedly said that it would severely penalize anyone stoking religious tensions and communal unrest. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said the government is taking a “zero tolerance” stance and that authorities are cooperating with humanitarian agencies and interfaith groups to promote trust.

Many Buddhists have meanwhile complained that tensions and strict curfews imposed in the region have affected their businesses and livelihoods—and closed off border trade with Muslim-majority Bangladesh. The Buddhist and Muslim communities have become heavily segregated and policed in the past year.

This week’s violence marks the second time violence has broken out in Thandwe in recent months, with mobs attacking a handful of Muslim homes in July, though no injuries were reported then.


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One Response to “Myanmar Town Locked Down After Violence; President Continues Trip”

  1. drkokogyi Says:

    Jack Marson
    ရခုိင္ လုံထိန္းေတြကုိ အားကုိးျပီး အျပစ္မဲ့ မြတ္စလင္မ္ေတြကုိ သြားသတ္ေနတာ
    အဲေလာက္သတၱိေကာင္းတဲ့ ေကာင္ေတြ ေသနတ္မပါနဲ့ ေလာင္ခ်ာ မပါနဲ့ဓါးနဲ့ သူေသ ကုိယ္ေသ တုိက္မယ္ဆုိ မ်က္စိမွိတ္ျပီး တုိက္ရဲတယ္..အဲဒီ စကားကုိရခုိင္က မြတ္စလင္မ္ အကုန္လုံးဆီက ၾကားရတယ္..မင္းတုိ့ေတြ အစုိးရ အားကုိနဲ့ အႏုိင္က်င့္တာ
    အစိုးရ မပါရင္ေတာ့ေလ မင္းတုိ့ တေတြ ဘယ္ေပ်ာက္သြားမွန္းေတာင္ သိမွာ မဟုတ္ဘူး
    သတၱိရွင္ လုပ္ျပီး facebook ေပၚမွာ ေအာ္မေနနဲ႔ … အသိေပးတာ ..မင္းတုိ့ ေျပာသလုိ
    ငါတုိ့ မြတ္စလင္မ္ေတြ အၾကမ္းဖက္သမား မွန္ရင္ ငါတုိ့မွာ လက္နက္ကုိင္ တပ္ဖြဲ႔ ရွိခဲ့ရင္ အနားေတာင္ မကပ္ဘဲ တုိင္းရင္းသားေပးမွာ ေသခ်ာတယ္။ မရွိလုိ႔ မင္းတုိ႔ေတြရဲ့ အႏုိင္က်င့္ခံေနရတာ ..

    ျမန္မာအစိုးရကလည္း ျမန္မာျပည္က မြတ္စလင္မ္ေတြမွာ လက္နက္ကုိင္ တပ္ဖြဲ႔ မရွိတာ သိလုိ႔
    အခုလုိ ရက္ရက္စက္စက္ သတ္ျဖတ္ေနတာ ။ တကယ္တမ္း ငါတုိ႔ မွာ လက္နက္ကုိင္ တပ္ဖြဲ႔ မရွိတာမင္းတုိ့ ကုိ အလြန္တရာ ယုံၾကည္ခဲ့လုိ့ဘဲ။ မင္းတုိ့ ဒီေလာက္ ရက္စက္မွာ ငါတုိ့ မသိခဲ့ဘူး..
    ငါတုိ့မွာ လက္နက္ကုိင္ တပ္ဖြဲ႔ ရွိခဲ့ရင္ ေသဖုိ႔ေတာ့ ၀န္မေလးဘူးဆုိတာ မွတ္ထားၾကပါ။
    မရွိလုိ႔ အခုလုိ ခံေနရတာ ..မင္းတုိ့ ျမန္မာမြတ္စလင္မ္ေတြကို အၾကမ္းဖက္တယ္လုိ့ မတရားစြပ္စြဲတယ္ တရား၀င္ အၾကမ္းဖက္တယ္ဆုိတာ ဘယ္မွာ ျပႏိုင္ခဲ့လဲ ။ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ ကေကာ ျမန္မာမြတ္စလင္မ္ ထဲမွာ အၾကမ္းဖက္သမား ရွိတယ္လုိ့ ျပႏဳိင္ခဲ့လား။ ငါတုိ့ေတြ ေသြးေအးလို႔ ငါ့တုိ့ကုိ လိမ္ျပီး အခုလုိ ငါတုိ့ ညီအကို မိဘ ေမာင္ႏွမေတြကုိ ရက္ရက္စက္စက္ သတ္ျဖတ္ေနတာဟာ လက္နက္ကုိင္ တပ္ဖြဲ႔ ျဖစ္လာေအာင္ အၾကမ္းဖက္သမား ျဖစ္လာေအာင္ တြန္းအားေပးတာ နဲ့ တူေနတယ္ဆိုတာ မွတ္ထားပါ။
    ႏုိင္ငံထဲမွာ ေသြးထြက္သံယုံမွု မျမင္ခ်င္တဲ့ ထဲမွာ ျမန္မာမြတ္စလင္မ္ေတြ ထိပ္က ပါတယ္ဆုိတာ
    မွတ္ထားပါ။ မင္းတုိ့ အရမ္းတြမ္းအားေပးရင္ေတာ့ မင္းတုိ့ ေျပာေနတဲ့ လက္နက္ကုိင္ တပ္ဖြဲ႔ မရွိပါရပ္နဲ့ တစ္ေန့ ျဖစ္လာခဲ့ရင္ မင္းတုိ့ အတြက္ ပုိ အထိနာမယ္။ ေသြးေအးသူေတြ ေသြးဆူလာေအာင္ မင္းတုိိ႔ဘဲ လုပ္ေနတာ။ ငါတုိ့ ဘာမွ မလုပ္ဘူးေနာ္။ အစၥလာမ္ ဆုိတာ ေသဖုိ႔ ၀န္မေလးဘူး။ ငါတုိ့ တုိက္ခုိက္ျပီး ေသရတာ ပုိမြန္ျမတ္တယ္။ ဒါေပမဲ့ တုိက္စစ္ မဟုတ္ဘူး..ငါတုိ့ကုိ မတရားလုပ္မွ ငါတုိ့ လုပ္တာ..မင္းတုိ႔လုိ မဟုတ္မတရား လူေတြကုိ သတ္တာေတာ့ ငါတုိ့မလုပ္ဘူး။ မင္းတုိ့ ေျပာေနတဲ့ အၾကမ္းဖက္ သမားေတြရဲ့ သမုိင္းကုိ ေလ့လာၾကည့္ပါ။ ငါ့ဆီက မေမးနဲ့ ဘီလာဒင္ အေၾကာင္းကုိ ရန္ကုန္တကၠသုိလ္ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ ဆက္ဆံေရး ပါေမာကၡ ကုိ သြားေမးၾကည့္ပါ ေျပာပါလိမ့္မယ္။ ဘင္လာဒင္ ကုိ အေမရိကားက ရာရွားကုိ ခြဲထြက္ခုိင္းခဲ့တယ္။ ခြဲထြက္ျပီးမွ အကုန္ျပီးသြားမွ ဘင္လာဒင္ကုိ အေမရိကားက ဘဲ သတ္ဖုိ႔ လုပ္လုိ့ အေမရိကာက သစၥာမရွိလုိ့ သူလည္း အၾကမ္းဖက္သမား ျဖစ္သြားတယ္ဆုိတာ သမုိင္းေလ့လာတဲ့ သူေတြ သိတယ္။ မသိရင္ သိေအာင္ၾကိဳးစားပါ။ ဘင္လာဒင္က သခ်ာၤပါရဂူ တစ္ေယာက္ ပညာတတ္ ကေန အၾကမ္းဖက္သမား ဘ၀ေ၇ာက္ေအာင္ ဘယ္သူလုပ္ခဲ့သလဲ ဆုိတာ ေလ့လာပါ။ ဒါကုိေလ့လာျပီး ငါတုိ့ကုိလည္း အဲလုိ ျဖစ္လာေအာင္ လုပ္မယ္ဆုိရင္ေတာ့ မင္းတုိ့ ႏဳိင္ငံဘယ္ေတာ့ မွ ေအးမွာ မဟုတ္ဘူး။ ႏုိင္ငံတုိးတက္ခ်င္ရင္ ဒီလုပ္ရပ္ေတြကုိ ရပ္တန့္ေစခ်င္တယ္။

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