Myanmar investigates religious unrest

June 8, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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YANGON, Myanmar, June 8 (UPI) -- Myanmar's government is to investigate what led to unrest between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state earlier this week in which 10 Muslims died.

Brig. Gen. Kyaw Zan Myint, the deputy minister of Home Affairs, is leading the committee to look into the "lawless and anarchic acts that can harm peace, stability and rule of law in Rakhine," a report by the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Although the New Light report didn't make reference to a specific incident, there were two outbreaks of violence June 3 linked to a murder-rape case in the village of Kyauk Ni Maw.

In the first incident, 10 Muslims were killed by a mob who pulled them from their bus in late in the afternoon, the independent Irrawaddy news Web site Irrawaddy, published in Thailand, said.

The second incident happened in the Rakhine capital Sittwe later the same day when police opened fire to warn protesters who had surrounded a local police station.

The mob was demanding the release of three men suspected of the rape and murder of a woman May 28.

Rakhine, formerly called Arakan state, occupies most of Myanmar's west coast on the Bay of Bengal and has a relatively large Muslim population. Within Myanmar, Buddhists make up 89 percent of the population while Muslims and Christians make up around 4 percent each, United Nations estimates state.

The deputy chairman of the 12-member committee is police Brig. Gen. Zaw Win, the deputy head of Myanmar's national police force.

The committee will report to President Thein Sein by the end of the month, the New Light report said.

The unrest briefly spread Tuesday to Yangon when around 50 Muslims protested in front of Sunni Bengali Mosque. They called for justice in the killing of the 10 Muslim bus passengers who were on their way back to Yangon, a report by the independent Myanmar news Web site Mizzima, based in New Delhi, said.

They also protested about the state-run newspapers Kyemon and Myanmar Ahlin using derogatory term "Muslim kalar."

The newspapers later issued an apology for using the term.

During the Yangon unrest, Mya Aye, a leader of the 88-Generation pro-democracy group appealed for calm, to respect the Muslim faith and not to play into the hands of people who hate others because of their religion.

But he said he wanted the killers of the Muslims to be brought to trial.

"We want justice for the brutal killing of 10 passengers," Mya said.

The 88-Generation takes its name from student-led protests in 1988 opposing the military rule of Ne Win.

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