The Bolton News:
April 6 2013
BURMA may be thousands of miles away but, as the violence against the country’s Muslims escalates, people in Bolton are coming together to call for action.
A silent vigil by Bolton United for Peace and Burma Action Group last week will be followed by a similar event at 3pm today in Victoria Square.
People in Bolton, whose parents and grandparents moved to the UK from Burma years ago, are calling for a stop to the violence and for action to be taken.
They want to raise the profile of events happening in Burma to stop more people being killed.
Among the group is a Daubhill mother-of-one who is terrified that her Muslim family in Burma will be harmed.
The 34-year-old, who is too frightened to be named, said her relatives have been living in “absolute fear” since riots started in Burma on March 20, directed against Muslims.
Muslims in Burma account for fewer than five per cent of the population, which is predominantly Buddhist.
In the city of Meiktila, more than 40 people were killed and thousands were driven from their homes, which were burnt and razed to the ground.
Violence and intimidation has since spread across the country, leaving thousands of people living in fear.
The violence comes at a time when, after nearly half a century of dictatorship, Burma has begun to make reforms, including lifting press censorship and releasing political prisoners — most notably Aung San Suu Kyi.
Every morning and night, the Daubhill mother, who came to the UK with her husband to study in 2001, calls her family in Rangoon to check they are safe.
She says the military regime has organised a group of extremist monks to terrorise the Muslim population and every night her family take turns to keep watch in case they are next.
Her cousin has been volunteering in camps set up in Rangoon to house the people, including the elderly and children, whose homes have been destroyed in the violence and persecution.
She said: “There are hundreds of people in the camps with nothing. They might not have been physically hurt, but all their belongings and homes have been burnt down.”
Just days ago, a fire in a school for Muslim orphans in Rangoon killed 13 boys. She said the school was only five streets away from where her husband used to live and she is worried the persecution could spread to her parents’ home.
She said that on a nearby street, a man on a motorcycle had spent the night goading residents by throwing stones at their mosque, shouting racial slurs and claiming if they came out they would “kill all the generations”.
She added: “I am so scared about what could happen to my family. These extremists want to get rid of the Muslims and I want to make people aware what it going on in Burma to get the terrible things to stop.”
Ibrahim Kala, aged 43, from Daubhill, has helped to organise the vigils.
Mr Kala’s father moved to Bolton from Burma in the 1960s and he says people need to be made aware about what is going on in the country.
He said: “It is frightening for people here in Bolton to see what is happening in Burma. We need to stop it.”
l For more information about the Burma Action Group, contact 07525 048346.