Muslims in hiding in Myanmar after sectarian strife flares

YANGON Mon Sep 30, 2013 1:40pm IST

Muslim people clear the area and search for salvageable items, after their houses were burnt in a riot at Htan Kone village, in Myanmar's northern Sagaing region August 26, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Muslim people clear the area and search for salvageable items, after their houses were burnt in a riot at Htan Kone village, in Myanmar's northern Sagaing region August 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Related Topics

YANGON (Reuters) - Terrified Muslims hid in their homes in northwest Myanmar on Monday after armed police dispersed a Buddhist mob that torched houses and surrounded a mosque in the latest outbreak of sectarian tension.

Clashes between majority Buddhists and Muslims have killed at least 237 people and left more than 150,000 homeless since June 2012.

The violence threatens to undermine political and economic reforms launched in the two years since a quasi-civilian government replaced a military junta.

The situation in the town of Thandwe was precarious after police restored order by firing shots in the air to break up the mob late on Sunday, said two security sources, who sought anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Thandwe, 260 km (162 miles) from the capital Yangon, is in Rakhine state, the worst-hit region. As in several previous bouts of communal unrest, a minor disagreement triggered an outpouring of anger, a local Muslim politician said.

"We're now scared and hiding inside our homes, like the previous times," Kyaw Zan Hla, chairman of the Kaman Muslim Party, told Reuters by telephone, adding that about 200 people had joined the mob, some wearing masks and carrying flaming torches.

He said he had himself become embroiled in a row after he objected to a Buddhist man parking a motorcycle in front of his home late on Saturday and rumours spread that he had insulted Buddhism.

Police reported no deaths or injuries from the incident in Thandwe, home to an airport used by tourists who visit resorts on the popular Ngapali beach nearby.

In April, the government said 192 people were killed in June and October 2012 clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, most of whom Myanmar regards as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite roots going back generations.

The United Nations has described the Rohingya as "virtually friendless".

Clashes between Rohingya and Rakhines in June 2012 led to unrest elsewhere in the country, where other groups of Muslims have been targeted, including Kamans, who are of different ethnicity from Rohingyas. An estimated five percent of Myanmar's population of about 60 million is Muslim.

(Reporting by Min Zayar Oo and Soe Zeya Tun; Writing by Jared Ferrie; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

FILED UNDER:

REUTERS SHOWCASE

SpiceJet Bail-Out

SpiceJet Bail-Out

Co-founder of SpiceJet seeks time to finalise rescue  Full Article 

Regulating Airfares

Regulating Airfares

India considers temporary cap on airfares - government official  Full Article 

Ten Years On

Ten Years On

British tsunami brothers use funky footwear to help children.  Full Article 

Fund Raising

Fund Raising

Xiaomi raising over $1 bln from investors including GIC - source.  Full Article 

Porn Crackdown

Porn Crackdown

China arrests thousands in porn, gambling crackdown - Xinhua.  Full Article 

India v Australia

India v Australia

Boxing Day test of India's resolve in Melbourne.  Full Article | Related Story 

Jaycee Charged

Jaycee Charged

China charges Jackie Chan's son over drug offence.  Full Article 

China on Cyberattacks

China on Cyberattacks

China condemns cyberattacks, but does not mention North Korea.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage