Myanmar government struggles to contain anti-Muslim hostility
Myanmar’s government is struggling to contain anti-Muslim violence that touched the outskirts of the capital, Naypyitaw, at the weekend and forced it to send troops to patrol the streets in the town where the recent trouble started.
Four houses and a small mosque in Tatkon township on the northern edges of Naypyitaw were set ablaze late on Sunday, a civil servant in the capital told Reuters on Monday.
Communal tension, stifled under half a century of army rule, has resurfaced since President Thein Sein’s reformist government took office in 2011.
It has released dissidents and relaxed media censorship, but was also criticized for failing to quell last year’s violence in Rakhine State in western Myanmar. Official figures say 110 people were killed and 120,000 were left homeless, most of them Rohingya Muslims.
The latest unrest began last Wednesday in Meikhtila, 130 km (80 miles) north of the capital and sparked by an argument between a Buddhist couple and the Muslim owners of a gold shop that escalated into rioting in which 32 people died, official figures show.
Police were criticized in the media and by local people for making little effort to halt the violence as ethnic Burmese Buddhists including monks stalked the streets armed with swords and knives.
More than 2,000 people are now living in makeshift camps, but calm has been restored by the military, sent in on Friday when the government declared martial law in the area.
“I think I am safe now and I can reopen my shop because of soldiers guarding the town,” 52-year-old Khin Mya told Reuters. “Soon after soldiers arrived, we got peace. The situation had been very, very dangerous in previous days.”