Two Buddhists arrested after Muslim shops wrecked in Kachin state

Buddhists held in northern state of Kachin for attack on Muslim-owned shop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 6:16am


Two Buddhists have been arrested after Muslim shops were destroyed in Myanmar's northern state of Kachin, police said yesterday, in a new outbreak of religious violence.

Myanmar is in the grip of acute religious tension after a deadly wave of unrest in March that saw monks and Buddhist mobs attack Muslim areas in violence that has edged towards the country's main city, Yangon.

But it is the first time similar violence has been reported in the majority-Christian Kachin state, which is also home to a patchwork of ethnic and religious groups who have found work in the jade and timber industries.

"We arrested two people at the scene … and are still interrogating them. We will charge them if there is enough evidence," a police official in Kachin state said following the violence.

Bordering southern China, the remote, resource-rich region is locked in a bitter conflict between ethnic Kachin rebels and Myanmar's army.

"About 30 people arrived in the evening and threw stones at our shops and houses," according to Moe Moe Lwin, 46, a Muslim woman from a village in Kachin's Hpakant township. "We couldn't do anything except watch while they destroyed our shop … we will leave for a while. We have no idea how we should move forward," she said, adding she believed outsiders were responsible for the attack.

A Buddhist villager nearby confirmed Muslim shops and houses were destroyed in three places in the area. "We do not want to see this sort of violence. We denounce their act," Tin Soe from a village near Hpakant township said.

A renewed bout of anti-Muslim unrest in Oakkan, around 100 kilometres north of Yangon, on Tuesday left one dead and saw mosques and homes destroyed, raising alarm across the country.

At least 43 people were killed and thousands left homeless in March's flare-up, which was apparently triggered by a quarrel between a Muslim gold shop owner and Buddhist customers in the central town of Meiktila.

Speaking after a visit last week to Meiktila, US ambassador Derek Mitchell urged Myanmar's authorities to do their utmost to prevent further violence and hold the perpetrators accountable.