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A judge has sentenced a Rangoon resident to eight days in jail for public disorder after he entered a residential neighborhood and threatened to kill all Muslims in the vicinity.
The incident took place late Tuesday evening in Sanchaung Township, when local residents heard a man shouting, “Are there any Muslims in this street? Come out! I will kill you all!”
The residents detained the man and handed him over to police, who identified him as Aung Thein Htwe, a 27-year-old working at the Kyeemyindaung Railway Station.
The Sanchaung Township court judge sentenced him on Wednesday afternoon. Police argued that his actions did not meet charges of incitement. Burma has yet to pass legislation covering hate speech.
“His emotions just exploded. We did not find that he was instigating riots,” Sanchung police sub-inspector Aung La Pyae said.
Little additional information about his mindset was provided except that he had been intoxicated.
The country has been on edge in the wake of developments in Arakan State, which has caused more than 350,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh as Burma cracks down on insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
ARSA attacked police posts on 25 August, killing more than a dozen members of the security forces.
The military says it has killed more than 370 fighters, but rights groups and the government of Bangladesh counter that the civilian death toll is much higher, possibly in the thousands.
Official statistics say more than two-dozen non-Muslim civilians have been killed by the insurgents, while more than 10,000 Buddhists have left their homes.
As the fighting rages, anti-Muslim sentiment is running high in Rangoon and other major cities in the country, prompting concerns that the conflict in Arakan could once again spill over into riots in other parts of the country.
Earlier this week in a township located in central Burma’s Magwe Division, a Buddhist mob sang the national anthem and threw rocks at a Muslim-owned property.
Police broke up the crowd and arrested one of the men involved, who said the crowd was angry about the situation in Arakan State. No one was injured.
At a 6 September meeting in Naypyidaw with the country’s commander-in-chief, Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, and other senior officials, President Htin Kyaw urged authorities to take strong action against radical extremists who might try to take advantage of the crisis.
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi tapped Htin Kyaw for the job after her party came to power in 2016, as the military-drafted constitution bars her from becoming president.
While she has faced international criticism for her handling of the Arakan response, Suu Kyi remains popular at home, and supporters contend she has little control over the armed forces carrying out the operation.