IT has almost been a week since an angry, 200-strong mob in a Burmese village assaulted a Muslim man, ransacked his home, and destroyed the village mosque and Muslim cemetery, and yet police have yet to launch an investigation into the matter.
Despite calls for the authorities to take action, Bago province Chief Minister U Win Thein said that no arrests will be made.
“If we take action at the moment, the problem won’t be stopped and the situation might get worse,” he told the Myanmar Times.
In Thayel Tha Mein village, where the incident broke out over the weekend, tensions are still high.
Ali Ahmed, a retired imam residing in the village, gave Coconuts Yangon a first-hand account of what had happened, and said: “I saw a crowd with rods and swords shouting “Kill Kalars! Remove Kalars!” (“Kalars” is a Burmese derogatory term for Muslims.)
The 60-year-old added that even those he considered friends were part of that mob: “Those people from the mob told us during the other religious conflicts in other townships that we should not be worried.”
Fearing for their safety, many of the village’s Muslim residents have temporarily fled their homes, choosing to stay with relatives in nearby villages until the situation becomes more stable.
— Ro Zaw Naing (@Zw_Naing) June 30, 2016
According to local media, the clash came about from a disagreement on social media.
One of the villagers reportedly posted a photo of a building under construction, mistaking it for a new mosque, and questioned why the authorities were allowing it to be built.
Abdul Rashid, a Muslim local who was overseeing the construction of the building, took offense and allegedly swore at the writer of the post.
A couple of days after, the mob came looking for Abdul Rashid, pillaging his home and leaving him with injuries to his head and torso.
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Following the incident, some 50 police officers were dispatched to the village to ensure no further attacks, with officers posted to Abdul Rashid’s home for his protection.
Abdul Rashid’s father, U Ibrahim, said it was regrettable that the dispute had been blown out of proportion, clarifying that the building in question was simply intended as a storehouse for the family’s construction business.
“They could have reported the case to police if they were upset he said swear words. They should have sought recourse through legal channels. Instead, they destroyed our house. They took our money and our jewelry. I think this is bullying,” he said, as quoted by the Myanmar Times.
In an effort to help things return to normal in the village, the regional government on Monday established a committee headed by six Buddhists and four Muslim villagers, which has been tasked with re-building trust between the two communities.
The regional government has also pledged to help repair the destroyed mosque.