Current News

Burma’s President Thein Sein warns ‘extremists’

Mosques and houses
belonging to Muslims have been destroyed in the violence
BBC News:
28 March 2013
The Burmese
government will use force if necessary to stop “political opportunists and
religious extremists” from fomenting hatred between faiths, President
Thein Sein has warned.
It was his first
public comment on the violence, which began last week.
At least 40 people
have been killed as a result of discord between Buddhists and Muslims since 20
March.
Curfews have been
imposed in a number of areas, as crowds of Buddhists attacked Muslim buildings.
The police were
reported on Wednesday to have opened fire in one town on a crowd of about 500
people.
Last Friday a state
of emergency was enforced in the central town of Meiktila in Mandalay region –
where the communal violence began after a reported argument at a gold shop.
‘Last resort’
“I would like to
warn all political opportunists and religious extremists who try to exploit the
noble teachings of these religions and have tried to plant hatred among people
of different faiths for their own self-interest. Their efforts will not be
tolerated,” the president said in a national televised address.
“In general, I
do not endorse the use of force to solve problems. However, I will not hesitate
to use force as a last resort to protect the lives and safeguard the property
of the general public,” he said.
“All
perpetrators of violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the
law.”
The president said
that “conflicts and difficulties” would inevitably arise during
Burma’s transition to a democracy.
He called on police
to “perform their duties decisively, bravely and within the constraints of
the constitution and by-laws”.
Correspondents say
that police in Meiktila have been criticised for failing to act quickly enough
to stop the rioting, in which houses, shops and mosques were burned down.
At least 12,000
Muslims are thought to have fled their homes because of the unrest.
In similar violence
in Rakhine state last year, nearly 200 people were killed and tens of thousands
forced from their homes.
The conflict that
erupted in Rakhine involved Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, who are not
recognised as Burmese citizens and have complained of frequent persecution.
Those affected by the
latest violence insist that in contrast to the allegations made against the
Rohingyas they are legitimate Burmese citizens.
Correspondents say
that isolated violence involving Burma’s majority Buddhist population and its
minority Muslim community has occurred for decades, even under military
governments that ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.