Anti-Muslim riots rattle Myanmar, many wounded


Policemen stand guard outside a partially-burnt mosque in riot-hit Meiktila, central Myanmar on March 22, 2013. Charred bodies lay unclaimed on the streets of a riot-hit town in central Myanmar, witnesses said, as global pressure mounted for an end to the Buddhist-Muslim unrest. Parts of Meiktila have been reduced to ashes in the most serious communal violence to hit the former junta-ruled nation since last year, leaving the authorities struggling to bring the situation under control


Soe Than Win

Anti-Muslim rioting in Myanmar's Okkan left many reportedly injured on Tuesday. "Roaming gangs" were blamed for the destruction of a mosque and local shops in the nation's latest outbreak of religious unrest.

Sectarian violence has flared up intermittently in Myanmar since the nation opened up under President Thein Sein. The international community is closely watching Thein Sein's response to the crisis, after years of sanctions on the former military junta-led government. 

Local police chief Win Naing told the Associated Press no one was believed killed in the unrest in Okkan, located about 70 miles away from the capital of Yangon, but at least 10 people were hurt.

He said mobs also set fire to Muslim villages in the area. Muslims are the minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, and the divide between them has long been a source of tension. 

Reuters attributed the violence to a confrontation on the street, describing a "collision" between a Muslim woman and Buddhist monk detailed in a Facebook posting from presidential spokesman Ye Htut. 

Also citing Ye Htut's Facebook page, Agence-France Press said people were angered after "a woman accidentally bumped into a young novice monk and knocked his alms bowl onto the ground." The posting also reportedly said police fired warning shots to disperse the crowd that had gathered there.

Dozens of Okkan shops were looted and at least one mosque was destroyed in subsequent rampages, said Reuters.

AP, citing police, said two mosques had been wrecked. 

Order has reportedly been restored in Okkan.