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A court in Lashio on Tuesday handed a 26-year prison sentence to the Muslim man accused of setting a Buddhist woman on fire in Lashio last month, which led to two days of anti-Muslim rioting in the Shan state town.
Ne Win, a 48-year-old resident from Shan state’s Kengtung, was found guilty on several charges, including assault and drug possession.
“He was sentenced to 26 years in prison for setting the woman on fire, drug use –traces of drugs were found in his system – and drug possession,” said an official at Lashio’s police station, adding that the rumours that Ne Win suffered from mental illnesses were false.
“He has no mental problems – he was upset at [Aye Aye Win] for staring at him and questioning why he was walking up and down the street in front of the shop. To me, it seemed more like a personal attack.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the attack was not racially or religiously motivated; however, after the assault the situation escalated quickly as mobs took to the streets and began torching mosques and property owned by the town’s Muslim population.
More than 60 rioters are now under investigation by the police for their role in the melee. According to DVB’s reporter Khun Zaw Oo in Lashio, there are 14 people currently on trial at the township court for their alleged involvement in the riots.
Lashio police said the situation in the town has returned to normal. Most of the 1000 people who sought shelter at Manhsu monastery during the rioting had returned home.
A curfew issued under article-144 of the Code of Criminal Procedures was still in effect, but officials reduced the restricted time of travel to five hours a day – from 10pm till 3am.
The violence in Lashio was the latest outbreak in a series of devastating anti-Muslim riots that have kicked off across the country since fighting between Arakan Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya erupted in May 2012, which left more than 200 dead and displaced more than 140,000 people.
According to government statistics, one person was killed and five injured from 28 to 29 May in Lashio, while five homes, three mosques, one cinema, four warehouses, 32 shops, two cars and 11 motorbikes were destroyed.