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Alternative Asean Network on Burma
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ANTI-MUSLIM VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL BURMA

 
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A tense calm prevails after deadly religious violence hit Central Burma in March, with anti-Muslim attacks reported in four townships in Mandalay Division and eight townships in Pegu Division. According to official figures, the violence in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division, killed 44 people and displaced over 12,800. As of 9 April, over 8,400 people remain displaced.

The UN cited several troubling aspects of the violence, including possible regime complicity. UN Sec-Gen’s Special Advisor on Burma Vijay Nambiar said that Muslims were “clearly targeted” during the violence. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana said reports suggested regime authorities were complicit in anti-Muslim attacks.

Disturbing accounts emerged of the extent of the anti-Muslim violence and the regime’s inability, or unwillingness, to control it. The inaction of regime authorities mirrored their response to the June 2012 unrest in Arakan State, during which security forces failed to stop the early violence and subsequently became actively involved in rampant human rights abuses against the Muslim Rohingya population.

In recent months, the so-called ‘969’ movement, led by 45-year-old Buddhist monk U Wirathu, has fueled anti-Muslim sentiment in Burma. The movement has become a symbol evoking Buddhist nationalism and solidarity and has urged Buddhists to shun Muslim businesses. The waves of sectarian violence that hit Arakan State from June to October 2012 also featured anti-Muslim hate speech and apparent complicity by the authorities.