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Authorities are questioning the three individuals who were allegedly involved in a gold shop brawl in Meikhtila last month that triggered widespread ethno-religious rioting across central Burma.
According to a report published by Reuters on Monday, on 20 March a 45-year-old Buddhist woman began arguing with an employee at a Muslim-owned gold shop over the price of a hairpin she was trying to pawn. After the argument intensified, the owner of the shop allegedly slapped the woman and her husband was then dragged outside and supposedly beaten by three of the store’s employees.
Following the gold shop fight, sporadic violence began to breakout across Meikhtila and a Buddhist monk was later murdered, which led to a chain reaction of fighting that engulfed the town.
Mandalay division’s Advocate-General Ye Myint Aung said three of the four individuals involved in the melee at the gold shop are now being questioned, while the remaining culprit is at large.
However, the official refused to identity the individuals that were currently being investigated.
“Regarding the [gold shop fight]; assaulting someone with the intention to steal property is considered aggravated theft and can be punished with the maximum of ten years imprisonment,” said Ye Myint Aung, who noted that aggravated assault could net a life sentence.
According to the divisional official, nine people are believed to have been in involved in the murder of the Buddhist monk, with six of the alleged culprits currently in custody.
“Authorities will continue to investigate and identify those involved in the riots,” said Ye Myint Aung.
In late March, Mandalay division’s government formed an investigation commission led by the regional Border Affairs and Security Minister Aung Kyaw Moe to investigate who and what factors caused the ethno-religious rioting that devastated the region.
On 30 March, the President’s Office announced the creation of the Central Management Committee for the Emergency Period, which was made up of senior government officials including the Minister of Home Affairs and the Immigration and Population Minister.
According to official statistics during last month’s riots 43 people were killed and more than 10,000 people were displaced, while about 1,200 homes, 37 mosques and 77 shops were destroyed.
The police have arrested 68 individuals for their alleged involvement in the rioting.