UPDATES TO ADD ARRESTS
By Kyaw Ye Lynn
YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Rights groups in Myanmar are urging the government to probe the recent destruction of Muslim religious buildings in the country, and bring justice to victims of religiously motivated violence.
In the past month, a mob has partially destroyed a mosque, a school, a Muslim dwelling, a building under construction — which villagers had accused of being an illegal religious school — in the southern Bago region, and set fire to another mosque in Myanmar’s north and razed it to the ground.
Police announced late Tuesday that they had detained five villagers for burning down the mosque, but no arrests were reported to have been made in Bago, according to a local Muslim leader.
On Tuesday, the government of Myanmar was urged to hold the perpetrators responsible in a joint statement signed by 19 non-governmental organizations, including groups from Kachin State, Mandalay Region, and Yangon Region.
“We expect the authorities to thoroughly and impartially investigate these crimes and ensure those responsible are held to account,” said Khon Ja, an ethnic Kachin activist in Myanmar.
“We don’t want to see more of this violence,” she said in a statement. “The culture of impunity in Myanmar must come to an end.”
The statement underlines that the National League for Democracy was elected on the basis of a campaign to uphold the rule of law and human rights for all, and calls on Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to deliver on its promise.
On June 23, Buddhist villagers stormed the mosque and other religious buildings in Tha Yel Tha Mein village in Bago region — around 150 kilometers (93 miles) northwest of commercial capital Yangon — and on July 1 a mosque was burned down by another mob in Hpakant Township in northern Kachin state, even though around 50 security force members were present.
Authorities had said action will be taken against the perpetrators, however until Tuesday police had yet to make any arrests.
“If we take action against people, the situation will get worse,” the chief minister of Bago region, Win Thein, was quoted as saying by local media June 29.
He added, however, that the regional government would “supply aid to Muslims who suffered in the quarrel”.
Harry Myo Lin, executive director at Seagull – a signatory to the statement — said Tuesday that the groups appreciated the new government, and its reconciliation approach, calling it an “improvement upon the ways of the previous government”.
“However, it’s essential that the authorities hold the perpetrators accountable and take proactive steps to deter more violence,” he said.
“We’ve recently seen a lot of unmitigated incitement to religious violence online and offline.”