Muslim minority attacked in Myanmar

Monday 03 November 2003, 8:34 Makka Time, 5:34 GMT

Monasteries and mosques in Myanmar are under
surveillance after violence instigated by Buddhists
against Muslims left a dozen people dead.

The unrest broke out in the central town of Kyaukse on
19 October and spread to the city of Mandalay and then
on to the capital Yangon, unnerving the ruling
military which has rolled out a sweeping security
Bangladesh has also tightened security along its
frontier with Myanmar fearing a new influx of
Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims in the wake of the communal
riots across the border. 

Myanmar's secretive junta confirmed last week that
there had been "disturbances... between people
professing different faiths" and said Kyaukse had been
slapped with a general curfew, but that the trouble
had died down. 

Unrest sparked

Witness reports obtained by AFP said the trouble began
in Kyaukse during mid-October festivals to mark the
Buddhist Lent, including competitions and festivities
centred on Buddhist monasteries. 

After a minor dispute over one of the competitions a
stone was thrown into a monastery compound, sparking
anger among the monks who wrongly believed the
occupants of a nearby mosque were responsible. 

Several Muslims were injured in the ensuing rampage,
while others fearing for their lives were taken into
the homes of their Buddhist neighbours for protection,
the witnesses said. 

Despite the resolution of that conflict, exaggerated
rumours of the trouble spread to politically active
monks in Mandalay who travelled to Kyaukse, sparking
riots and fires which left a dozen dead including a
pregnant woman.
The ruling junta, which is ever fearful of public
unrest that could flare into protests against the
regime, took swift action against the Buddhist clergy
who have been involved in political rebellion in the
Ruling Buddhists intervene
The Buddhists' ruling body, the Sangha, issued a
notification banning all monks from leaving their
monasteries between 19:00 and 04:00, a township-level
official said.

“We have also summoned Muslim leaders and trustees of
all the mosques in Yangon and warned them against
taking matters into their own hands by way of
safe-guarding their respective mosques," he said.
Witnesses said monks seen patronising tea-shops after
dark were rounded up by security personnel in the
satellite town of Dagon in eastern Yangon. 

Monasteries searched

In Yangon and Mandalay authorities secured permission
to search monasteries for unauthorised pamphlets and
other documents deemed to be inflammatory to community
relations, and monks' registration papers were

Security officials were also monitoring mosques and
monasteries and any monks seen travelling in and out
of towns and cities were watched closely. 

"All this indicates that military authorities are
clamping down hard on those attempting to disturb the
peace and will brook no nonsense from anyone including
Buddhist monks," said one local political analyst. 

Aung San Suu Kyi protests   

The government is already on alert for unrest after 30
May clashes between a pro-junta mob and supporters of
Aung San Suu Kyi which led to the democracy leader's

In Bangladesh, the BSS news agency said border guards
and police have been asked to be alert along the
southeastern frontier amid the unrest.
It cited unconfirmed reports that panic-stricken
ethnic Rohingya Muslims had thronged near the
Bangladesh border following the clashes.
In the early 1990s some 250,000 Rohingya Muslim
refugees flooded across the border into Bangladesh
claiming atrocities by Myanmar's military government.
Most of them were later repatriated but some 20,000
remain in border camps. 


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