More than 1,000 Muslims who fled Myanmar’s latest bout of sectarian violence huddled on Thursday in a Buddhist monastery guarded by army soldiers as calm returned to this northeastern city.
The army transported terrified Muslim families by the truckload out of a neighbourhood in Lashio targeted a day earlier by Buddhist rioters.
“We heard things could get worse, so we waved down soldiers and asked them for help,” said 59-year-old Khin Than, who arrived at the monastery on Thursday morning with her four children and sacks of luggage along with several hundred other Muslims.
The violence in Lashio this week highlights how anti-Muslim unrest has slowly spread across Myanmar since starting last year in western Rakhine State and hitting the central city of Meikhtila in March.
In Lashio on Thursday, Buddhist monks organised meals for the newly arrived refugees.
Though a few Buddhist men could still be seen Thursday riding motorbikes with crude weapons such as sharpened bamboo poles, no new violence was reported. Several banks and shops reopened as residents emerged to look at destroyed Muslim shops. Trucks of soldiers and police crisscrossed main roads. They guarded the ruins of Muslim businesses that were reduced to ashes on Tuesday and Wednesday, erecting roadblocks from twisted debris.
The rioting began Tuesday after a Muslim man splashed gasoline on a Buddhist woman and set her on fire. Buddhist mobs responded by burning down several Muslim-owned shops, a mosque and an Islamic orphanage. Roving motorcyclists continued the violence on Wednesday, leaving one person dead and four injured.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said 25 people had been detained so far. He said all those arrested were from Lashio.