Police arrest two in new anti-Muslim unrest in Myanmar

AFP , Saturday 4 May 2013

Myanmar police arrest two Buddhist suspect after a mob destroyed Muslim shops in northern Kachin State

Two Buddhists have been arrested after Muslim shops were destroyed in northern Kachin State, police said Saturday, in a new outbreak of religious violence.

Myanmar is in the grip of acute religious tension after a deadly wave of unrest in March that saw monks and Buddhist mobs attack Muslim areas in violence that has edged towards the country's main city Yangon.

But it is the first time similar violence has been reported in the majority- Christian Kachin State, which is also home to a patchwork of ethnic and religious groups who have found work in the jade and timber industries.

"We arrested two people at the scene... and are still interrogating them. We will charge them if there is enough evidence," a police official in Kachin State told AFP, speaking anonymously, following Thursday night's violence.

Bordering China the remote resource-rich region is currently locked in a bitter conflict between ethnic Kachin rebels and Myanmar's army.

"About 30 people arrived in the evening and threw with stones at our shops and houses," according to Moe Moe Lwin, 46, a Muslim woman from a village in Kachin's Hpakant township.

"We couldn't do anything except watch while they destroyed our shop... we will leave for a while. We have no idea how we should move forward," she said, adding she believed outsiders were responsible for the attack.

A Buddhist villager nearby confirmed Muslim shops and houses were destroyed in three places in the area.

"We do not want to see this sort of violence. We denounce their act," Tin Soe from a village near Hpakant township told AFP.

A renewed bout of anti-Muslim unrest in Oakkan, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Yangon, on Tuesday left one dead and saw mosques and homes destroyed, raising alarm across the country.

Attacks against Muslims -- who make up an estimated four percent of Myanmar's population -- have exposed deep fractures in the formerly junta-run country and cast a shadow over reforms under a quasi-civilian regime that took power two years ago.

At least 43 people were killed and thousands left homeless in March's flare-up which was apparently triggered by a quarrel between a Muslim gold shop owner and Buddhist customers in the central town of Meiktila.

Some monks were involved in those clashes, while others are behind a nationalistic campaign calling for a boycott of Muslim-owned shops.

Around 200 people were killed and tens of thousands made homeless in western Myanmar last year in clashes between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

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