Buddhist monastery opens doors to Muslims in Myanmar

Buddhist monastery opens doors to Muslims in Myanmar

LASHIO, Myanmar
Buddhist monastery opens doors to Muslims in Myanmar

Muslims in Myanmar listen to a speech by Religious Affairs Minister San Sint at Lashio as they were sheltered in a heavily guarded Buddhist monastery. REUTERS photo

More than 1,000 Muslims who fled Myanmar’s latest bout of sectarian violence huddled in a Buddhist monastery guarded by army soldiers as calm returned to this northeastern city, though burnt out buildings leveled by Buddhist rioters still smoldered.
The army transported terrified Muslim families by the truckload out of a neighborhood in Lashio where overturned cars and motorcycles that had been charred a day earlier left black scars on the red earth, the Associated Press reported.

“We heard things could get worse, so we waved down soldiers and asked them for help,” said 59-year-old Khin Than, who arrived at the monastery May 30 morning with her four children and sacks of luggage along with several hundred other Muslims. “We left because we’re afraid of being attacked.”

Meals organized

In Lashio, Buddhist monks organized meals for the newly arrived refugees, who huddled together in several buildings in the monastery compound. Although a few Buddhist men could still be seen May 30 riding motorbikes with crude weapons such as sharpened bamboo poles, no new violence was reported.

Several banks and shops reopened as residents emerged to look at destroyed Muslim shops. Trucks of soldiers and police crisscrossed main roads. They guarded the ruins of Muslim businesses that were reduced to ashes earlier in the week, erecting roadblocks from twisted debris. The rioting began May 28 after a Muslim man splashed gasoline on a Buddhist woman and set her on fire.

Buddhist mobs responded by burning down several Muslim-owned shops, a mosque and an Islamic orphanage. Roving motorcyclists continued the violence a day after, leaving one person dead and four injured. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said 25 people had been detained so far. He said all those arrested were from Lashio.