Myanmar nationalists sent to jail over US embassy protest

AFP , Friday 12 May 2017

Four Myanmar nationalists were held on Friday for inciting violence during anti-Rohingya protests in Yangon last year, after a week that saw scuffles between Buddhist hardliners and minority Muslims in the city.

Dozens of police kept back crowds of protesters as the men were escorted out of court on their way to prison, where they will be remanded in custody until a hearing next week.

The men are charged over holding protests outside the US embassy in April last year denouncing the Americans' use of the word 'Rohingya' to describe more than a million Muslims who live in Rakhine State.

Myanmar's outspoken Buddhist nationalists have long railed against the Rohingya, who they denounce as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

But their rhetoric has crescendoed since Rohingya militants attacked police posts on the border with Bangladesh last year, sparking a bloody, months-long army crackdown.

Friday's hearing came days after a violent confrontation between nationalists and Muslims in downtown Yangon left at least one man injured.

Police have arrested two people and issued warrants for five more, including two monks, in connection with the incident.

A crowd of hardliners had stormed into the mainly Muslim Mingalar Taung Nyunt township on Tuesday night hunting for "illegal" Rohingya Muslims they said were hiding out in a local house.

Wary residents in the township told AFP they were tired of the violence and feared becoming targets.

"We want to live peacefully here. I'm sick of this kind of thing happening," said a local Muslim man, who used to own a teashop several years ago before it was destroyed by nationalist monks.

In recent months hardliners have also shut down religious events across the country and forced two Yangon schools accused of illegally doubling up as mosques to close their doors.

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