These three siblings lost their dad. He was killed when he was trying to get food for his family. Something is very wrong in a country when finding food for your children to save their lives is a crime worthy of death. Photo: Oddny Blog
– In Myanmar’s central heartlands, justice and security is elusive for
thousands of Muslims who lost their homes in a deadly rampage by Buddhist mobs
in prison-like camps, unable to return to neighborhoods and businesses razed in
four days of violence in Meikhtila that killed at least 43 people, most of them
Muslims, displaced nearly 13,000, and touched off a wave of anti-Muslim unrest
fuelled by radical Buddhist monks.
their own security,” said a police officer at a camp inside a sports
stadium on Meikhtila’s outskirts. The camp holds more than 1,600 people guarded
by police with orders not to let them leave, said the officer, who declined to
give his name.
curfew has been in force in Meikhtila since the government declared martial law
on March 22. Skeletal walls and piles of rubble are all that remain of Muslim
homes and businesses that once covered several blocks at the heart of the town
of 100,000 people in the center of Myanmar.
but so far only Muslims stand accused, raising fears that courts will further
aggravate religious tension by ignoring the Buddhist ringleaders of the
combustible sectarian relations behind it are one of the biggest tests of
Myanmar’s reform-minded government, which took power in March 2011 after almost
half a century of hardline military rule.
predominantly Buddhist country, but about 5 percent of its 60 million people
are Muslim. They face a growing campaign of anti-Islamic sentiment led by
radical Buddhist monks.
commission released a report on Monday saying Myanmar must urgently address the
plight of Muslims displaced by sectarian bloodshed in western Rakhine State. It
came in response to violence last June and October that killed at least 192
people and left 140,000 homeless, mostly stateless Rohingya Muslims in an area
dominated by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
Muslim men accused of murdering a monk, believed to be the first killing in the
March unrest in Meikhtila, is expected to conclude this week. Those on trial
say they are innocent.
hammers ring across the city as workers dismantle what is left of the Muslim
neighborhood, stone by stone. There are no signs of Muslims on the streets.
Muslims are being held in seven official camps that are off-limits to
journalists. Thousands more have crowded into unofficial camps in villages near
Meikhtila, where police also restrict their movements and prevented them from
speaking with Reuters.
deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said detaining
internally displaced people (IDP) is a violation of their rights.
people up in an IDP camp is not a substitute for providing basic security and
ensuring communal peace,” he said. “Even if the authorities’ intent
is good, they are clearly going about this the wrong way.”
president’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
spokesmen, Ye Htut, has previously stressed that the monks involved in the
Meikhtila violence make up only a fraction of the 500,000-strong monkhood.
“All perpetrators of violence will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of
the law,” said President Thein Sein in a nationally televised speech on
camps “live freely and happily”, reported the state-run New Light of
Myanmar newspaper on April 5.
promised to help Muslims rebuild their homes, but reconstruction has yet to
begin. Building more than 1,500 houses burned down or damaged would cost $7
million, it said.
residents said returning Muslims were unwelcome.
living with them again, because they insulted Buddhism and a monk’s blood was
spilled on the ground,” said Than Htun, as he waited outside a prison to
see his son who was arrested for looting money from a Muslim home during the
could influence the outcome of the ongoing murder trial, suggested Thein Than
Oo, a lawyer for three of the seven Muslim accused, who believed the judge is
under pressure from Buddhists to deliver a guilty verdict.
satisfy the people,” he said.
case of the Muslim owner of a gold shop, his wife and an employee who on April
11 received 14 years without parole for theft and assault. The charges stemmed
from an argument with a Buddhist customer, which sparked the first bout of rioting
earlier on the day the monk was killed.
harsh sentences due to the violence that erupted afterwards, said Thein Than
rioting were Muslim but no Buddhists have appeared in court. The district judge
said they would be tried after the current trial ends.
nor the district police could say if any monks would be charged. Monks led many
of the mobs, according to dozens of witnesses interviewed by Reuters.
Physicians for Human Rights called for an independent investigation into a
report of a massacre at an Islamic school on March 21. The group said 32
students and four teachers were missing.
Min Oo, 18, said he fled with other students and teachers when the school was
attacked, taking refuge with other Muslims in a nearby compound.
mob tossed petrol bombs into the compound until police arrived and offered to
bring the nearly 200 Muslims to safety. But the few dozen officers could only
protect some of them, said Soe Min Oo, pausing frequently to fight back tears.
Buddhist mob hit them and threw stones as they left the compound, and those who
came out last were beaten to death. He saw three friends killed.
faced anything like this situation before,” said Soe Min Oo. “I feel
Reuters in a tiny Muslim village about half an hour outside Meikhtila where he
was staying with family. During the interview, an official who wouldn’t say who
he worked for arrived on a motorcycle and demanded names and contact numbers
minister Ye Myint denied a Reuters request to visit official camps in his
region, which includes Meikhtila. Immigration and police officers banned access
to an unofficial camp in Yindaw, a village about a 45-minute drive from
R.C. Marshall and Robert Birsel)