Myanmar authorities ‘not behind’ religious unrest

Myanmar president’s office spokesman Ye Htut delivers a speech in Yangon


Myanmar’s government and army were not behind recent outbreaks of deadly religious violence, the president’s spokesman said yesterday, amid accusations that security forces stood by - or were even complicit - in the clashes.

Sectarian bloodshed, mostly targeting Muslims, has laid bare deep divides that were largely suppressed under decades of military rule which ended two years ago in the Buddhist-majority country.

Rights groups have criticised the police and army for failing to stop mobs attacking mainly Muslim neighbourhoods in two separate flare-ups of unrest in western and central Myanmar.

The speed of the destruction, coupled with eyewitness reports of investigators arriving to spark violence, also led to speculation it was organised by elements within Myanmar’s military intent on disrupting the reform process. “There has been some speculation about who is behind the conflict,” said president’s office spokesman Ye Htut.

“However, I would like to say firmly, at this point, that it’s completely false that the government is behind this and that the military carried out what happened,” he said. “In reality the first ones who get the headache of solving the problem are the government and the military.”

Monks have also been accused of involvement in the clashes. Eyewitnesses have said people dressed in monks’ robes were among angry mobs who destroyed houses and mosques.

Radical monks have led a campaign to shun shops owned by Muslims, but senior monks have accused foreign media of one-sided reporting of the Buddhist-Muslim conflict. Speaking at a US Embassy event on the tensions, Ye Htut said that sweeping economic and political reforms were for the benefit of the whole country. “There is no reason to leave a certain group or a religion or a ethnic group behind... as long as we leave someone behind in a human society our problems can never be solved.”

Meanwhile, two Muslims were shot dead and six others wounded when security forces opened fire at a camp for some of those displaced by last year’s violence in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, the UN refugee agency said.

The incident, on Thursday morning, took place as security forces tried to break up a dispute at the Kyein Ni Pyin camp in Pauktaw, home to at least 4,400 displaced people - mainly Rohingya Muslims whose homes were torched in deadly clashes with ethnic Rakhine locals.

“Gunfire was used by the authorities to disperse the crowd, resulting in the fatalities and wounding,” the UNHCR said in a statement, adding two of the wounded were minors.

It was unclear if the casualties were Rohingya, according to a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, explaining the camp is home to both the ethnic group and Kaman Muslims.

by Gulf Times
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