Violence threatens political reform in Myanmar

Featured - June 5th, 2012

Violent incidents near Rakhine have raised concerns that elements of the problems which existed under the repressive military rule could still hamper political reforms in Myanmar.

Reuters reported that several Buddhist men killed nine Muslim passengers on a bus in the town of Taunggoke. The attackers blamed the Muslims for killing a Buddhist woman after she was raped by several men. Ten people were shot and wounded in a separate protest, when police attempted to disperse the crowd of 200 people in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine.

Myanmar’s ethnically diverse environment, with the majority made up of Buddhists, remains a great challenge for political reforms directed at ensuring “peace and national unity”. Rakhine is home to the largest concentration of Muslims. Buddhists are said to particularly resent Rohingya Muslims but Ko Kyaw Lay, Muslim human rights activists, said there were no Rohingyas among those killed. Rohingya rights groups, on the other hand, condemned the attack.

The former military rule prohibited demonstrations but political reforms paved the way for liberal freedoms that gave a voice to the public. Internet and media censors are also being reduced.