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Authorities have arrested 18 people for their role in the latest outbreak of anti-Muslim rioting to hit central Burma, which left one person dead and scores injured on Tuesday, according to a government spokesperson.
Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said 18 people have been detained after “77 homes were vandalised and set ablaze by mobs in Yadanargon, Panipin, Chaukthe and Thegon villages surrounding Oakkan town” in Rangoon division in a Facebook post published on Wednesday. Local officials added that at least four mosques and several religious schools were also torched during the rampage.
According to an AFP report, one person was killed and at least nine were injured in Oakkan township following rioting that kicked off on Tuesday after a Muslim resident allegedly bumped into a Buddhist novice, which caused him to break his alms bowl.
According to locals, the township has been calm since authorities deployed extra security forces to the area.
A leading Islamic figure has called on officials to perpetrators to account to to prevent the spread of further violence.
“This is a matter [concerning] the rule of law and now it’s at Rangoon’s doorstep,” said Islamic Religious Affairs Council-Myanmar Wunna Shwe.
“Whether it will spread further or not depends on the government which oversees the law – if the government can took precise actions against those who violated the law then the unrest should stop. Otherwise, it will just spread from one place to another and eventually reach my house.”
According to a post published on the police force’s website, authorities have pressed charges against “Ma Win Win Sein for knocking over alms bowl of Novice Ashin Punya, 11” in accordance with 295 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.
The rioting near the country’s commercial hub comes more than a month after anti-Muslim violence spilled across the country’s central heartlands in late March, leaving 43 people dead and displacing more than 10,000 people who have yet to return home.
Much of the violence has been attributed to a rise in militant Buddhist nationalism sweeping across the country in the form of the 969 movement that is being led by Mandalay-based monk Wirathu.
-Aye Nai contributed reporting.