Anti-Muslim mobs spread in Myanmar

Anti-Muslim mobs spread in Myanmar

YANGON - The Associated Press
Anti-Muslim mobs spread in Myanmar

Myanmar soldiers clean debris from destroyed buildings following ethnic unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Meikhtila, Mandalay. AP photo

Anti-Muslim mobs rampaged through three more towns in Myanmar’s predominantly Buddhist heartland over the weekend, destroying mosques and burning dozens of homes despite government efforts to stop the nation’s latest outbreak of sectarian violence from spreading.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in central Myanmar on March 22 and deployed army troops to the worst hit city, Meikhtila, where 32 people were killed and 10,000 mostly Muslim residents were displaced.

Pelted with stones

But even as soldiers imposed order there after several days of anarchy that saw armed Buddhists torch the city’s Muslim quarters, anti-Muslim unrest has spread south toward the capital, Naypyitaw. A Muslim resident of Tatkone, about 80 kilometers from Meikhtila, said that a group of about 20 men ransacked a one-story brick mosque there on March 24, pelting it with stones and smashing windows before soldiers fired shots to drive them away.

A day earlier, another mob burned down a mosque and 50 homes in the nearby town of Yamethin, state television reported. Another mosque and several buildings were destroyed the same day in Lewei, farther south. It was not immediately clear who was behind the violence, and no clashes or casualties were reported in the three towns.

The emergence of sectarian conflict beyond Rakhine state is an ominous development, one that indicates anti-Muslim sentiment has intensified nationwide since last year and, if left unchecked, could spread.

The Rohingya Muslims are widely denigrated as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and most are denied passports as a result.