Fresh sectarian violence struck north-western Myanmar early Sunday when a 1,000-strong Buddhist mob burned down dozens of Islamic homes and shops following rumours that a young woman had been sexually assaulted by a Muslim man, police said. There were no reports of injuries.
A crowd surrounded the police station late Saturday and then went on an hours-long rampage after authorities refused to hand over the assault suspect, a police officer from the area said
About 35 houses and 12 shops most belonging to Muslims were destroyed before calm was restored, he said, asking not to be named because he did not have the authority to speak to reporters.
The radical monk Wirathu, whose anti-Muslim rhetoric has placed him at the centre of rising religious violence in the predominantly Buddhist nation, posted news of the riot in the outskirts of the town of Kantbalu on his Facebook page.
Myanmar has been grappling with sectarian violence since the country’s military rulers handed over power to a nominally civilian government in 2011.
The unrest which has killed more than 250 people and left 140,000 others displaced began last year in the western state of Rakhine, where Buddhists accuse the Rohingya Muslim community of illegally entering the country and encroaching their land. The violence, on a smaller scale but still deadly, spread earlier this year to other parts of the country, fueling deep-seeded prejudices against the Islamic minority and threatening this country’s fragile transition to democracy.
Almost all of the victims have been Muslims, often attacked as security forces stood by.
Details about the riot were still being collected Sunday afternoon. The local Daily Eleven newspaper, which had a reporter at the scene, said 1,000 people were involved in the violence.