Anti-Muslim Violence in Okkan Township Injures 10

Source ABC news, 30 April

Buddhist mobs hurling bricks overran a pair of mosques and set hundreds of homes ablaze in central Myanmar on Tuesday, injuring at least 10 people in the latest anti-Muslim violence to shake the Southeast Asian nation.

Terrified Muslim families who fled the assaults around Okkan, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Yangon, could be seen hiding in forests along roads and crouching in paddy fields afterward. Some, in a state of shock, wept as their houses burned in the night and young men with buckets futilely tried to douse the flames.

The unrest was the first reported since late March, when similar Buddhist-led violence swept the town of Meikthila, further north, killing at least 43 people. It underscored the failure of reformist President Thein Sein’s government to curb increasing attacks on minority Muslims in a nation struggling to emerge from half a century of oppressive military rule.

Residents said as many as 400 Buddhists armed with bricks and sticks rampaged through Okkan on Tuesday afternoon. They targeted Muslim shops and ransacked two mosques; about 20 riot police were later deployed to guard one of them, a single-story structure, which had its doors broken and windows smashed.

The worst-hit areas were three outlying villages that form part of the town. Each village contained at least 60 mostly Muslim homes; all were torched. Columns of smoke and leaping flames could be seen rising from burning homes in the villages as a team of police approached, pausing to take pictures with their cellphones.

Regional police chief Win Naing said at least 10 people were injured, most rescued from burning homes in the villages. There were no immediate reports of deaths.

Win Naing gave no details on who was behind the assault. Khin Maung Than, a Muslim in Okkan, said he recognized some of the attackers, but many faces were unfamiliar.

The mobs smashed his shop, stealing watches, breaking glass, and leaving overturned lamps and furniture scattered across the floor.

He said he climbed to the roof to escape and then took refuge with Buddhist neighbors who hid him. Returning to the shop that doubles as his home, he said: "I am speechless. I have never experienced such riots in my life."

The 60-year-old, who is married to a Buddhist woman, said he had heard of last month’s violence in Meikhtila, but: "I didn’t realize we’d face this because our town was very peaceful."

His wife, San Htay, said police in the town were quickly overwhelmed. They tried to disperse the crowds, she said, and several were injured in the mayhem.

"I can’t explain how desperately sad I am now. My heart beats so fast because of fear," she told The Associated Press.

Stopping the spread of sectarian violence has proven a major challenge for Thein Sein’s reformist government since it erupted in western Rakhine state last year. Human rights groups have recently accused his administration of failing to crack down on Buddhist extremists as violence has spread closer to the economic capital, Yangon, at times overwhelming riot police who have stood by as machete-wielding crowds attacked Muslims and their property.

Interview with a resident on violence in Oak Kan

Source Mmedia, 30 April

Oak Kan

The following is the transcript of M-Media interview with a Muslim resident on Ok Kan resident.

“The mob destroyed mosque, religious school, and shops and homes owned by Muslims. They burnt down a hut next to the school. The other shops and homes are destroyed but not set on fire. I am sure the school is gone. I can’t go and see that area now.

They also destroyed Haji Maung Shwe’s building and Haji Tin Oo’s shop. Many Muslim owned shops and houses were destroyed. Until now, they are still destroying. I am hearing the noise.

Also in my ward, destruction and attacks are going on right now. The house in front of mine is gone, so my house might have been gone as well.

There are police and army, but they can’t do anything. Many people from nearly villages marched to town for the attack. I can’t estimate how many. They all came from all four sides. We are stuck in the middle.

I know how it was started. About 10 AM, a Muslim woman and a young novice monk bumped accidentally as they walk past each other. The bowl of the monk dropped and the elm went to the ground. She was accused of doing it intentionally. I heard she bought the bowl and elm for the monk as compensation. At that same time, many people came. Immediately, the crowd became a mob.

Now we are running away from our home. We are staying at a Buddhist friend’s home. My Buddhist friend said riots are doing this intentionally. He told me not to leave the house. He said two mosques have been destroyed. These mosques are Zay Mosque (Market Mosque) and Lan Cho mosque. There are only these two mosques in Ok Kan. Many shops have also been destroyed”

M-Media learns that although the incident was an accident, it has been manipulated to make it a religious riot. Although a case is open at a police station, it did not work. Only violence took place.

According to latest information, security forces fired into the air to control the riot.

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