Troops in restive Myanmar town after fresh violence

Featured South East Asia - May 31st, 2013

Police and soldiers patrolled the streets of the town of Lashio in eastern Myanmar following a fresh outbreak of clashes that left houses and mosques razed to the ground.

Authorities detained 34 people, including a Muslim man who allegedly doused a Buddhist woman with gasoline before setting her on fire, triggering the violence on Tuesday, reports Wall Street Journal. One person died and several others were injured in the clashes, officials said.

More than 400 Muslims, some of whom had homes burned and destroyed by angry mobs, took to makeshift shelters in Buddhist monasteries. A curfew remained in place.

“The military is now taking responsibility for security here,” local information ministry official Nang Hsai Li Kham told AFP, adding that the situation was now “peaceful”.

“There were some people going around the town with knives and sticks on motorbikes yesterday. But there is no such thing today… Security forces are being deployed on every corner”.

Although some residents claimed security forces responded too late. “There was weak police security. Only after the conflict and death did they arrive,” Zan Zar Ni Aung, a Muslim resident in Lashio, told the Wall Street Journal.

The latest sectarian strife comes as a challenge to the reformist government of President Thein Sein. Ye Htut, presidential spokesman, said the violence was “inappropriate for a democratic society” and that it would be “dealt according to the law”.