Four more people alleged to have participated in this week’s Mandalay riots, which left two dead, were arrested on Friday night, while authorities extended curfew to include a seventh township in Mandalay Division.
The clampdown in security came after riots broke out on Tuesday night in Chan Aye Tharzan Township, a neighbourhood with a large Muslim population, after rumours circulated on social media websites that the Muslim owners of a teashop had raped a Buddhist maid. Over the course of two days, hundreds of police were deployed to the area, but by Wednesday night news emerged that two men were killed in separate mob attacks – one Buddhist and one Muslim. Four men were arrested on 3 and 4 July for their alleged connection to the mob killings.
Col Aung Kyaw Soe, minister of divisional security and border affairs, told DVB on Saturday that the authorities detained four more after receiving news that they were hiding in a mosque.
“Last night we arrested four more people,” Aung Kyaw Soe said. “A total of eight people have been detained. There are others related to them concerning the violence and we are trying to find out the culprits.”
“We cannot tell you their names because we are still investigating it.”
Aung Kyaw Soe added that the local police force has received reinforcements from military battalions, and that stability will be restored to the area. “Don’t worry, there will be peace,” he said.
Tensions have remained high since Tuesday’s riots, and district authorities reacted by announcing that Article 144 of the Penal Code will be instated throughout the seven townships under a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Any gathering or procession of more than five people will be broken up by the authorities, and its participants will be arrested and charged, the district announcement said.
Meanwhile, town elders, civil society organisations and interfaith associations formed a so-called peace committee on Saturday to dispel rumours and misinformation that have caused the riots and communal conflicts between the Muslims and Buddhist communities, said Thein Than Oo, a lawyer and member of the committee.
According to a public statement released by this new committee, the group will restore peace in Mandalay by dismissing rumours and releasing accurate information, work through the public’s misunderstandings and suspicions, and “solve crimes according to the laws”.
Soe Hein, another committee member, said the situation has calmed down considerably, but there is still mistrust beneath the surface.
“There is still suspicion, worries and mistrust between the two communities. We formed the committee to reduce these,” Soe Hein said.
Burma has been plagued with frequent and deadly bouts of communal violence since June 2012, when riots broke out between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma. Since then, anti-Muslim sentiment has grown to the point where even rumour containing anti-Muslim sentiment can spark deadly episodes.