A mob in northern Myanmar has burned down a mosque in a second attack in a little over a week. A crowd of Buddhists torched the mosque after being furious that the mosque was built near a Buddhist pagoda.
“The problem started because the mosque was built near a pagoda. The Muslim people refused to destroy the building when the Buddhists discovered it,” Moe Lwin, a local police officer, told AFP.
The attack took place on July 1 in the township of Hpakhant in Kachin state. According to state-owned newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar, the mosque had been built without permission from local authorities, and mosque leaders had thus been ordered to tear down the building “as it was built without respect to local rules and regulations.”
The paper said that the security forces were unable to stop the mob, composed of “local residents wielding sticks, knives and other weapons,” from burning the mosque down. “The mob was unresponsive and entirely beyond control. The building was razed by the riotous crowd,” Global New Light reported.
Other reports added that the angry crowd attacked police officers protecting the mosque and prevented the fire brigade from reaching the building to put out the blaze.
In a separate incident, a group of men demolished a mosque and a Muslim cemetery on June 23 over a disagreement on its construction in Bago village, near Myanmar’s capital of Yangon. As a consequence, the Muslim community fled to a neighboring town. There are reports that a Muslim man was attacked too.
A local social worker said that security forces have been stationed to enforce law and order.
“Police are now controlling the area and it is stable,” Dashi Naw Lawn, from the Kachin Network Development Foundation, told Al Jazeera.
The mob attacks on June 23 is seen as one of the most serious incidence of inter-religious violence in the predominantly Buddhist state the last few months. No arrests have been made so far for either the June 23 or July 1 incidents.
The United Nations (UN) has expressed grave concern and urged the government led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to address the spike in violence. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Yanghee Lee, who recently ended her 12 day tour of Myanmar, said that “tensions along religious lines remain pervasive across Myanmar society”.
She has expressed grave concern after the government said that they will not be probing last week’s mob attack on the mosque.
“This is precisely the wrong signal to send. The government must demonstrate that instigating and committing violence against ethnic or religious minorities has no place in Myanmar,” Lee said.
There has been sporadic but aggressive violence against Muslims in the predominantly Buddhist country since the outbreak of violence in 2012 that forced tens of thousands of Rohingyas to flee their homes in the state of Rakhine. According to UN figures, over 12,000 people have been displaced by the sectarian violence.
The Rohingya plight was further thrown into global spotlight in May 2015 when thousands of them fled their home in Rakhine to escape a wave of deadly attacks, persecution, and marginalization.
Discrimination against the Rohingya community is systematic, with even Suu Syi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is refusing to recognize them as citizens.
Suu Kyi and her party may have been globally praised for ending Myanmar’s military rule and stepping on the path to democracy. But the party’s prolonged silence on the persecution of the Rohingya minority shows that they may be selective about their democratic causes.
Roshni Kapur is a graduate student at University of Sydney majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies.