Myanmar mob burns down mosque, second in a week

HPAKANT, Myanmar, July 2 (UPI) — A mob burned down a mosque in northern Myanmar, the second attack in a little more than one week.

Several hundred villagers wielding sticks, knives and other weapons raided and burned the structure around 3:30 p.m. Friday, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar state-newspaper.

Local authorities and security forces said they tried to disperse the mob but that the mob was unresponsive and entirely beyond control.

No arrests were made and an investigation has been launched.

The mosque administration had failed to meet a Thursday deadline to raze the building to make way for a bridge. Ma Ba Tha, a Buddhist nationalist group, says the mosque was built without permission from the government, but Thein Aung, chairman of the mosque’s caretaker group, claims the structure was built more than 20 years ago.

On June 23, a Buddhist mob about 200 targeted a mosque and other religious buildings in a Muslim-dominated village in the Bago region. One Muslim man was injured and the minority group sought refuge in a neighboring town.

Myanmar’s government won’t grant citizenship to the country’s Rohingya muslims. About 1.1 million people are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and about 140,000 people — mostly Rohingyas — have been living in camps in Rakhine during a clash between the majority Buddhists and Rohingyas in 2012.

Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch have criticized Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s Nobel peace laureate and the de facto leader of the country, for not handling the Rohingya crisis.

“Discrimination and threats against the Muslim minority in Burma, a manifestation of growing ultra-nationalism, has intensified,” Human Rights Watch said on its website. “The Rohingya Muslim minority continues to face statelessness and systematic persecution.”

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, ended her 12-day visit to the country on Friday.

“It is vital that the government take prompt action, including by conducting thorough investigations and holding perpetrators to account,” she said before the second mosque was attacked. “I am therefore concerned by reports that the government will not pursue action in the most recent case due to fears of fueling greater tensions and provoking more conflict. This is precisely the wrong signal to send. The government must demonstrate that instigating and committing violence against an ethnic or religious minority community has no place in Myanmar. Perpetrators will be treated seriously in accordance with the law regardless of race, religious or ethnic background.”

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