Muslim victims of Myanmar unrest face uncertain future
Many are detained in prison-like camps, unable to return to neighborhoods and businesses razed in four days of violence in Meikhtila that killed at least 43 people, most of them Muslims, displaced nearly 13,000, and touched off a wave of anti-Muslim unrest fuelled by radical Buddhist monks.
“It’s for their own security,” said a police officer at a camp inside a sports stadium on Meikhtila’s outskirts. The camp holds more than 1,600 people guarded by police with orders not to let them leave, said the officer, who declined to give his name.
A dawn-to-dusk curfew has been in force in Meikhtila since the government declared martial law on March 22. Skeletal walls and piles of rubble are all that remain of Muslim homes and businesses that once covered several blocks at the heart of the town of 100,000 people in the center of Myanmar.
Trials have begun, but so far only Muslims stand accused, raising fears that courts will further aggravate religious tension by ignoring the Buddhist ringleaders of the violence.
The unrest and the combustible sectarian relations behind it are one of the biggest tests of Myanmar’s reform-minded government, which took power in March 2011 after almost half a century of hardline military rule.