Buddhist mob attacks Muslim buildings in Myanmar (VIDEO)



Policemen form a line as they patrol in riot-hit Meiktila, central Myanmar on March 22, 2013. Myanmar declared a state of emergency on March 22 for a riot-hit town where 20 people have been killed in Buddhist-Muslim violence that has sparked fears of spreading unrest.


Soe Than Win

BANGKOK, Thailand — Clashes between Muslims and Buddhists continued Wednesday in Myanmar's northern city of Lashio, the capital of northeastern Shan state.

The violence has left one person dead and four injured, according to the Associated Press, which cited state television.

The fighting began Tuesday after a rumor spread that a Muslim man had doused a Buddhist woman with fuel and set her on fire at a gas station. She was taken to a hospital with burn injuries.

After police arrested the man, a crowd gathered outside the police station to demand he be released.

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Lashio politician Sai Myint Maung said the authorities banned gatherings of more than five people after the group of 150 proceeded to burn stores.

The extent of the violence between the two groups was unclear. The area where it took place was in a remote region near China's border and officials could not be reached at night.

Reuters reported that Buddhist mobs armed with sticks and machetes burned Muslim homes on Wednesday for a second day, contradicting claims in state media that soldiers and police had restored calm. The agency said a reporter saw scores of young men and boys on motorbikes and on foot.

Tuesday's outbreak of violence resulted in the burning of a mosque, a Muslim school and some shops. The New York Times noted that the incidents "followed a pattern seen elsewhere in Myanmar of the police and military units being unwilling or unable to disperse angry crowds of Buddhists."

Other reports said a Buddhist monastery was also torched and that phone lines were down in the city of 131,000.

The violence came after unrest between Muslims and Buddhists in other parts of the country over the past year, including fighting in Meikhtila in March, where at least 44 mostly Muslim people were killed. About 12,000 people also lost their homes when several Muslim neighborhoods were attacked.

The religious outburst was the first to occur in Shan state, one of the few areas in Myanmar previously  untouched by the religious unrest.

Elsewhere, riots have been pervasive in recent months. More than 40 were killed in central Mandalay Division in March and nearly 200 have died in rampages against Muslims in coastal Rakhine State. Smaller attacks have targeted Muslim stores and homes in mountainous Kachin state and districts closer to the nation's largest city, Yangon.

Rage against Muslims has emerged as one of the most troubling phenomena in Myanmar since the poor, authoritarian country began to emerge from isolation several years ago. Although only about 4 to 5 percent of Myanmar's population is Muslim, a fast-growing Buddhist pride network is promoting fears that Muslims will eventually outnumber Buddhists, marginalize their business with help from secret injections of Gulf State cash and corrupt Buddhist women.